News / Europe

Crimea Referendum Spurs Ethnic Tensions

Crimea's Referendum Spurs Ethnic Tensions in Ukrainei
X
March 11, 2014 4:02 AM
With only days before the referendum on the future of Ukraine's Crimea region, all eyes are on the peninsula where a Russian-speaking majority is likely to side with Moscow. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Crimea's Referendum Spurs Ethnic Tensions in Ukraine

Zlatica Hoke
With only days to go before the referendum on the future of Ukraine's Crimea region is held, all eyes are on the peninsula where a Russian-speaking majority is likely to side with Moscow. Crimea's looming separation from Ukraine is raising fears that Moscow will not stop before asserting control over all the Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine. Analysts think any division of Ukraine is likely to fuel ethnic tensions in the region.
 
Sergei Aksyonov, Crimea's pro-Russian leader, has been clear about his expectations from the Sunday referendum.
 
"Today the Ukrainian army is blocked in its own bases. After the referendum for a future union with Russia, they will have to either leave the territory of Crimea, or they will have to serve in the armed forces and swear allegiance to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, or to Russia," said Aksyonov.
 
For the region's minorities, such as Muslim Tatars, this announcement sounds ominous. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin accused the Tatars of collaboration with Nazis and had them deported to the eastern Soviet Union after World War II.  The Muslim group, which has since returned to Crimea, now fears a new wave of persecutions.
 
"The Tatars of Crimea are persecuted because we're Muslim. And, what's worse, the Russian radical politicians dream that Russia will become 100 percent Russian without any other representatives of other nationalities," said Abul Gafar, a Crimean Tatar.
 
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors has also expressed concern about Crimean Tatars. 
 
"The Crimean Tatars have now taken a position that is different from the majority of Crimea, and my assessment is that this different position has increased their vulnerability. So if, if we want to be really alert, we must follow what is happening to their population and also the ignoration [being ignorant] of their situation cannot continue. They need resources to be integrated and they need our attention," said Thors.
 
With Kyiv on the verge of losing Crimea, there are concerns that the country's other Russian-speaking regions may want to follow suit.
 
Political scientist Volodymyr Kipen at the Donetsk Institute for Social Research and Political Analysis said most residents of Donetsk support the unity of Ukraine, but warned that the risk of separatism should not be ignored.
 
"The risk of separatism does exist in Donetsk but it is limited and fueled by forces outside the country. If the government acts like it should, this risk can be isolated, minimized, so that it does not become a threat to the state,” said Kipen.
 
Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is visiting the United States this week as he seeks Western support for the preservation of his country.

You May Like

Photogallery Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid