World News

Crimean Parliament Votes to Join Russia

Lawmakers in the embattled Ukrainian region of Crimea have voted to join Russia, in a move likely to further escalate tensions.

Thursday's vote by the Moscow-backed Crimean parliament comes as European Union leaders gather for an emergency summit in Brussels to discuss how to pressure Russia to back down from its military incursion into Crimea. U.S. lawmakers are also meeting Thursday to discuss potential economic sanctions against Russia.

The government of Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula with a majority Russian population, said Thursday it is scheduling a referendum on joining Russia for March 16. Russian President Vladimir Putin is being asked to consider the appeal.

The Reuters news agency quotes Ukraine's economy minister as saying the referendum on Crimea's status is "unconstitutional."

Crimea's move to leave Ukraine is likely to shake up efforts toward a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.



EU leaders are considering possible sanctions against Russia at their meeting Thursday, but with Europe heavily dependent on Russian gas, it is unclear whether any measures adopted will be more than symbolic.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is also attending the meeting. The gathering comes after the 28-nation EU offered Ukraine some $15 billion in aid to span the next couple years.

Meanwhile, direct efforts to end the crisis continue, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry scheduled to meet again with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Rome Thursday.

Kerry held a series of discussions Wednesday with Lavrov, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Ukrainian interim Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia. The Russian and Ukrainian ministers did not meet face-to-face during Wednesday's flurry of negotiations, and Kerry said he had not expected they would.

Ukraine's crisis began when protests erupted in late November after then-President Viktor Yanukovych rejected a deal with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia. What began as peaceful demonstrations eventually turned deadly as protesters clashed with police. Mr. Yanukovych fled the country last month.

As the U.S. and EU display their support for Ukraine's new government, the EU is punishing the nation's former leaders, freezing the assets of 18 high-ranking officials of the old government, including ousted President Yanukovych.

The EU announced the names of those targeted by the measures early Thursday, accusing them of embezzling state funds.

Mr. Yanukovych's son, his former justice minister and several other government ministers are also among those whose assets have been frozen.

Tensions in Crimea remain high, just days after Russian forces moved into the peninsula. Robert Serry, the United Nations special envoy to Crimea, was forced to cut his visit to the region short when he was confronted by a group of unidentified gunmen.

Concerns the turmoil could spread beyond Crimea remained heightened Thursday, amid clashes between pro-Russian demonstrators and Ukrainian police in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. Police took back a government building that had been seized Wednesday by demonstrators. Dozens of people were detained.

Western leaders have suggested the crisis in Crimea could be resolved if Moscow pulls back its forces to their bases on the Black Sea and allows in international monitors.

But Lavrov said Wednesday Russia cannot order pro-Russian armed forces in Crimea, which he described as "self-defense" forces, back to bases, because they are not Russian forces. He said allowing international monitors into Crimea is not Russia's decision, but the decision of Ukrainian and Crimean authorities.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs