News / Europe

Kerry: Crimean Referendum a "Backdoor Annexation"

US Concerned by Russian Troops Along Ukrainian Borderi
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Scott Stearns
March 15, 2014 2:44 AM
U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and Russian F.M. Lavrov met Friday in London, but failed to reach an agreement on Ukraine. VOA's Scott Stearns reports from London that Kerry said the U.S. is "deeply concerned" about Russian troops along the Ukrainian border, ahead of Sunday referendum in Crimea.

US Concerned by Russian Troops Along Ukrainian Border

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Russian acceptance of a Crimean referendum to break off from Ukraine and possibly join Russia would be an illegal "backdoor annexation."

Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for six hours in London Friday in another effort to defuse the tensions in Crimea.

Kerry called talks Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov "constructive and frank" but said that Russia is not prepared to make any decisions on Ukraine until after a referendum in Crimea set for Sunday.

Kerry said the U.S. continues to favor a direct dialogue with Russia and Ukraine. He added that the U.S. does not recognize the legality of a referendum that could see Crimea break away from Ukraine and join Russia.

Kerry said Lavrov made clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin is not prepared to act regarding Ukraine until after the referendum.

Lavrov said in a separate news conference that the talks with Kerry were useful, but the two have "no common vision" on Crimea. He said Russia will "respect the will of the Crimean people," and he criticized the threat of U.S. and EU sanctions on Russia as "counterproductive."

Kerry told reporters in London that there will be an even greater response if Russia further increases tensions in Ukraine.

"There will be consequences if Russia does not find a way to change course," he said. "And we don't say that as a threat. We say that as a direct consequence of the choices that Russia may or may not choose to make here."

The White House said later Friday afternoon that it is "regrettable" that Russia has chosen not to deescalate tensions and warned it will respond "quickly" if Sunday's referendum moves ahead.

Reuters news agency reported late Friday that a draft U.N. security council resolution due to be voted on Saturday declares that Sunday's referendum on the status of Crimea "can have no validity."   The resolution, drafted by the U.S., says the referendum was not backed by Ukraine's government.   Reuters quotes Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister, Gennady Gatilov as saying the resolution is "unacceptable," a sure sign of a Russian veto.

President Barack Obama makes a statement to reporters about Ukraine during his meeting with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in the Oval Office, March 14, 2014.President Barack Obama makes a statement to reporters about Ukraine during his meeting with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in the Oval Office, March 14, 2014.
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President Barack Obama makes a statement to reporters about Ukraine during his meeting with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in the Oval Office, March 14, 2014.
President Barack Obama makes a statement to reporters about Ukraine during his meeting with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in the Oval Office, March 14, 2014.
Speaking to reporters in Washington after the London talks, U.S. President Barack Obama said he remains optimistic for continued dialogue with Russia.

"We continue to hope that there is a diplomatic solution to be found,'' Obama said. "But the United States and Europe stands united, not only in its message about the Ukrainian sovereignty but also that there will be consequences if, in fact, that sovereignty continues to be violated.'

U.S. and European leaders have called the Russia-backed referendum "unconstitutional," and Kerry has warned Moscow of serious consequences if it annexes the Ukrainian peninsula.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Friday that the referendum  lacks legitimacy.

"The so-called referendum ... would be a direct violation of the Ukrainian constitution and international law," he said in a statement. "If held, it would have no legal effect or political legitimacy.'

Self-determination

But Russian officials say voters in Crimea have a right to self-determination following last month's collapse of the pro-Russian government in Ukraine

FILE - Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.FILE - Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
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FILE - Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
FILE - Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
Russian President Putin on Friday rejected Western accusations that a Crimea referendum would be illegal.

In a telephone conversation with U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon,  Putin "underscored that the decision to conduct [the referendum] fully corresponds to the norms of international law and the U.N. Charter'', the Kremlin said.

Adding to those tensions are thousands more Russian troops near the Ukrainian border for maneuvers that Moscow says will continue for two weeks.

"We also remain deeply concerned about the large deployments of Russian forces in Crimea and along the eastern border with Russia as well as the continuing provocations and some of the hooliganism of young people who have been attracted to cross the border and come into the east," Kerry said.

But Lavrov said those troops are no threat to anyone. He said the Russian Federation does not and cannot have any plans to invade the southeastern regions of Ukraine.

He added that  Moscow's position is that the rights of Russians, the rights of Hungarians, the rights of Bulgarians as well as the rights of Ukrainians themselves should be insured and protected.

A senior State Department official says Lavrov assured Kerry that those new Russian troops will not enter Ukraine.

The foreign minister made similar assurances before Russian troops crossed the border following the collapse of the pro-Russian government in Kyiv.

As for sanctions, that is up to Western countries that Lavrov said realize how counter-productive they would be. He said it is obvious that sanctions would not benefit the mutual business interests of Russia and its trading partners.

Much of Europe's natural gas comes from Russia through pipelines across Ukraine.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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by: oldlamb from: Guangzhou
March 17, 2014 4:48 AM
US gets use to inciting protesters to coup their governmemt in the name of democracy.There is a invisible suporting hand behind the protesters, From the Orange Revolution to the Arabic Spring,From Yem to Syria and Ukraine.The key question is no any country or hotspot has got the indeed democracy. Everyone know who makes the situation of the world worse and worse, But people went with the westen propaganda, and no one dare to stop those issues disrupt the world unless Russia and Putin.


by: Anonymous
March 15, 2014 12:06 PM
How many Syrians had to die because Putin wanted to keep his Tartus port? While the rest of the world wanted resolution, one voice. But Putin has his own voice. To preserve a killing regime so that he can preserve his port. Losing Crimea is worst for Putin, but the consequence to Russia economically would be even worst. Enough to be his undoing.

In Response

by: Anonymous
March 15, 2014 4:34 PM
Mister Putin he is a good president of Russia ,he is duing good thing for his country . Good job . Im proud of him .


by: nigel cairns from: san diego
March 15, 2014 11:37 AM
so our inept politicians have screwed up again-another crisis and more killing.
We should put our politicians "in harms way" in conflicts-then watch the cowards run!


by: Chuck Milliken
March 15, 2014 8:07 AM
If the Crimean Referendum is illegal, what do you call the "Coup d'état in Kiev? After all it was bought and paid for by the US State Dept.


by: Wallstreet Oligarch from: Whitehouse
March 15, 2014 6:46 AM
Vladimir Putin has a strong backing from the worlds largest democracy, India, which has supported Russia's right to invade Crimea and protect "legitimate" Russian interests. Western talks of isolating Russia mean nothing.


by: Simon from: China
March 15, 2014 3:52 AM
Russia must be punished for what it does. As far as I know,Russia claims Alaska back. Putin doesn't seem to stop.


by: Sunny Enwerem from: Abeokuta Nigeria
March 14, 2014 5:42 PM
The US should not go to war with Russia at list should keep to its word and stand up to any aggressor like Russia, good to know NATO is standing up and not just drawing lines and calling it colors.


by: Anonymous
March 14, 2014 4:14 PM
Consequences is all, Putin needs to learn them. Putin must be economically punished to the fullest extent there is. There needs to be consequences for every action he makes. He praises international law all the time, well he broke it. So now it is time the world rejoice and penalize Russia as hard as they possibly can. Otherwise we will see China do the same thing to taiwan and Putin doing the same thing to other countries in the area.

The Russian people need to be sent a strong message to get Putin out of power because what he is doing is only going to hurt the Russian people. Any so called "Leader" willing to jeopordize the entire country being penalized for illegal acts, does not deserve to be in power and most definately should not be representing any country.

He needs to be ousted now, lets work on that.

In Response

by: Anonymous from: Australia
March 15, 2014 5:46 AM
Well said!!


by: Rob Swift from: Great Britain
March 14, 2014 4:12 PM
History is a process. It drives all of us. To make any sense of it at all, you have to assume that the historical process is intelligent. Pareto wrote of the alternation of elites in terms of lions and foxes, and there is a clear move to the day of the lion from the day of the fox. To make rational sense of Ukraine you may assume both Mr Putin and President Obama to be right to see where it is all going. They are the main players.


by: Collins from: Kenya
March 14, 2014 3:17 PM
If President Putin thinks that he is strong enough,then he should come out and face Mp Vitali Klitchko in the ring and the world will see the winner.

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