News / Europe

EU: Crimea Referendum Illegal

Pro-Russian volunteers stand guard in front of Crimea's parliament building during a pro-Russian rally in Simferopol, March 6, 2014.
Pro-Russian volunteers stand guard in front of Crimea's parliament building during a pro-Russian rally in Simferopol, March 6, 2014.
A top European Union official labeled as illegal Thursday's abrupt decision by the Crimean parliament to hold a referendum to endorse a break with Ukraine.  

Crimea, Ukraine.Crimea, Ukraine.
Crimea, Ukraine.
Crimea, Ukraine.
The decision by Crimean lawmakers to schedule a referendum for March 16 on whether Crimea should become part of Russia is adding to tensions over the future of the Ukrainian peninsula, home to Russia’s Back Sea Fleet.

Western diplomats are trying to coax political leaders in Ukraine and Russia to negotiate a solution to the confrontation over Crimea, which Russian forces seized last week. And the decision by the region’s parliament to ask Moscow to consider its request to secede from Ukraine and join Russia is being seen by Ukrainian parliamentarians as an inflammatory move.  

The European Union’s envoy to Ukraine, Jan Tombinski, says Crimea cannot secede from Ukraine and join Russia on the basis of a referendum restricted just to Crimea. Citing article 73 of Ukraine's constitution, he says such a referendum would be illegal.

“It stipulates that the only way is the all-Ukrainian referendum," he noted. "So, in the light of the constitution in force in Ukraine, in its territorial integrity, including Crimea, this is against the stipulation of the constitution.”

Speaking at a news conference, the EU envoy said only a nationwide referendum would have the legal authority to allow such a breakaway. Ukraine’s new interim leaders also denounced the move as “unconstitutional.”

During the vote in Crimea’s parliament, 78 of the region’s lawmakers voted in favor of holding a referendum and joining Russia. There were eight abstentions and no votes against the move. In a statement on its website, the parliament announced it had asked Moscow “to start the procedure” for allowing Crimea to join the Russian Federation.

In the referendum, the Crimean people will be asked just two questions: Are you in favor of reuniting Crimea with Russia? Are you in favor of retaining the status of Crimea as part of Ukraine?

Crimea has been a part of Ukraine since 1954, when Soviet ruler Nikita Khrushchev formally transferred the region to Ukraine. The region’s population is mostly ethnic Russian but is also the ancestral home of Muslim Tatars.

Ukrainian parliamentarian Lesya Orobets, one of the leaders of the uprising that ousted Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, says Crimea must remain part of Ukraine.

“We are not trading territory for peace," she said. "We have our citizens there. We have Crimean Tatars. This is their motherland. There are 300,000 living there. They are Muslims. That is their motherland.”

The referendum proposal will add a further complexity to ongoing diplomatic negotiations, say analysts.

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Comment Sorting
by: MikeBarnett from: USA
March 08, 2014 2:03 PM
This is an intelligent economic move for Crimea. Russia and China are military allies in the SCO. A recent rail link through Kazakhstan, another SCO ally, links China and Russia. Crimean grain can go by container truck to the port of Kerch in eastern Crimea, cross by ferry to Kavkaz in Russia, put on container railroad flatcars, and taken by rail to China. China suffered the same winter conditions as the US, so it will need to import grain for livestock and poultry. Also, China's GDP growth rate is 7.7%, four times that of the US; its increasingly prosperous people want more meat; and this will increase in the future. The first improvement people make as wealth rises is to improve their diets. The second is to buy a car, so China is also the world's biggest car market, and some Chinese may drive to the Crimea because Chinese tourism is rising, and the Crimea is becoming an increasingly popular tourist resort. As a whole, the Ukraine has a poor economy that faces the threat of EU austerity with riots like those in Greece, Spain, and other EU lands. Russia had 1.3% GDP growth in 2013 compared to 0.3% for the EU. Therefore, Crimea's proposal is extremely intelligent.

by: Regula from: USA
March 07, 2014 5:58 AM
There is nothing illegal about Crimea's referendum: after the right-extreme mob, with help by the US/NATO, shot both police and protesters to keep the turmoil going and topple a democratically elected government, for no other cause than because Yanukovich refused to sign a suicidal deal with the EU, there is no further trust in either, the EU, the illegal coup government, who was clearly part of the planning for the turmoil and the shootings, nor the EU. Given Nuland's confirmed interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine and Yatsenyuk's refusal to execute his part of the EU co-signed agreement, no basis of trust in any agreement with the government exists. The EU collaborated with the US and, like the US, denied the violence in the Maidan even when so many video clips showed the war-like scenes. The southern provinces, who weren't part of the rioting, never had a say. Now they chose to have a referendum to either increase their independence within Ukraine or re-integrate with Russia.

There is nothing illegal about that referendum: It is clear that the US wanted to use the rightwing extremists to oust the Russians from their base and fleet and subjugate or chase away the Russian population. That goal was the underlying motive for the protests. The Russian army prevented both, that goal and the civil war with which the US intended to reach it.

Contrary to western propaganda, most Ukrainians don't really want to join the EU. They protested against the corruption in the government. For them, the new government is already tainted with that same corruption and worse. Secession of the southern and eastern provinces is now likely.

by: Nein Roths from: Mainville
March 07, 2014 12:54 AM
Which international law prohibits people from voting to determine their own fate?

by: Peter
March 07, 2014 12:29 AM
The US should support a free referendum in Crimea. Support the freedom of people to decide their destiny. This is the only right thing now.

If there is a doubt that the will of people of Crimea will be reflected in the referendum then try to pressure Russia to allow international observers to be present during the referendum.
But support the referendum!

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
March 06, 2014 2:28 PM
does that mean next Quebec independence referendum must be voted by every Canadians?

by: Hilton from: UK
March 06, 2014 11:33 AM
Funny how the EU was quick to recognize Kosovo independence, but not Crimea?? What a bunch of hypocrites!

by: Max
March 06, 2014 11:24 AM
Why international community was silent when crazy Khrushev gave russian land Crimea to Ukraine WITHOUT national referendum and without legal procedure?
Why russian people living in Crimea have no right to decide their future and return to home - in Russia?
Why you don't notice how happy they are finally to see a little hope to join families that was divided 20 years ago?
Why at least russian nation cannot decide what to do with land that was conquered, built by russian hands?
It was never ever ukrainian land. Please let us alone

by: Boris from: Russia
March 06, 2014 11:22 AM
EU: Crimea Referendum Illegal... so, what are you going to do..?? send us the corrupt scumbag José Manuel Barroso... or the British Ashton deformity...? LOL i am just asking... what are you going to do...?

by: George Weiss from: `Teaneck, USA
March 06, 2014 11:21 AM
I do not understand why Crimea is different from Bosnia or the other entities that formed Yugoslavia. If the EU recognized the right of Bosnia to secede from Yugoslavia then why can Crimea not secede from Ukraine. I think the answer is that Germany has always been anti-Serbian and saw the brekup of yugoslavia as an opportunity.

by: Scott from: Chicago
March 06, 2014 11:19 AM
"The European Union’s envoy to Ukraine, Jan Tombinski, says Crimea cannot secede from Ukraine and join Russia on the basis of a referendum restricted just to Crimea. Citing article 73 of Ukraine's constitution"

According to the same constitution, a sitting President can not be overthrown by a mob"

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