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: russlan from: Minsk
March 14, 2014 2:25 PM
Stop Russia! Don't buy its gas and oil! You know,there are programs on Russian central TV channels saying about Alaska. Alaska is part of USA,but once it was part of Russia,so they want to take it back....


by: Godwin from: Nigeria
March 14, 2014 2:06 PM
Much as Kerry is trying to be diplomatic in admitting that the Russia-Ukraine saga is a very difficult one for USA to handle, he failed far too short of telling the world what justifies the brutal action of the interim government in Kyiv and illegalizes the self determination move of the Crimean people. It was not out of nothing that Lavrov tried to show the symmetry between the British annexation of the Faulk Land Islands with the Russian alliance with Crimea. He did not mention such areas as the Kurdistan Provinces and the struggle of the Kurds in Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq subjugated and suppressed over the years from actualizing their dream of independence. For how long should the world continue under the illusion of freedom and democracy while peoples are subjugated under political, cultural and ideological slavery?

It is a shame that the world is relapsing into crude diplomacies again considering the face off between Putin and Obama over issues in Ukraine that relate to people’s desire to be free to associate. We have come to a point where democracy is being redefined as alignment of ideology; and more prominently seems democracy means alignment with USA and the Western Europe. Otherwise Russia has no business with direct dialogue with Ukraine when the world could simply tell the political thugs/touts at Kyiv that succession to seat of government is not by ability to conduct a violent demonstration to remove a sitting government, but by popular opinion of people expressed through legitimate ballot system where people in orderly manner make and break choices as the case may be. With the Europeans showing unusual solidarity with a weak government in Washington to hoist illegality in Ukraine presents a bad precedence. For now it sounds savory to the winner-takes-it-all syndrome reigning in Europe and USA. Tomorrow who knows, the UN will have to be confronted with a plethora of issues like this, prima facie Ukraine, and it may be too late to decide that a wrong has been done earlier.

Consequences of the desire to maintain democratic principles in Ukraine and around the world is not like to be dire on Russia, but it will be a mutual penalty to be paid by those imposing the consequences with those they are trying to hurt. Russia only needs to stand firm in its defense of democracy worldwide, for when the chips are down, it will not be difficult for the world to make their choices in a world that is fast becoming a global village and an open market. The BIG question now is, To dislodge Russia from Afghanistan USA invented al qaeda, what will happen if Russia goes ahead with its plans in Ukraine? That is where the fear is, not in the ability of USA to withdraw aid, impose sanctions, or place the military option (red line) on the table.


by: Rudy Haugeneder from: Canada
March 14, 2014 1:17 PM
The most reputable pundits watching the constantly escalating Crimea situation view the Lavrov-Kerry talks which ended today as the last chance for diplomacy to fix the problem. After listening to both men speak at news conferences today, it appears the crisis is likely to escalate hereafter and, if history is a precedent, war that can easily spread globally -- nuclear armed China supports Russia -- is the a likely outcome and could result in the nuclear conflagration we all feared before the supposed Cold War ended.

So, if you have, for example, $20,000 in a bank account, it may be time to withdraw much of it and have survival cash at home, as well as any gold, silver and precious metals and jewels that can be exchanged for anything your family needs to survive if war unfolds.

In Response

by: Mark from: Virginia
March 14, 2014 5:46 PM
that's a good way to spread panic and disorder, which we certainly DO NOT need, at all....in the event of a nuclear exchange (even of a limited one), your 'survival cash' will be worthless anyway. While I do agree that a war may be imminent, I certainly doubt it will be a global war. Between Ukraine and Russia, yes, with China aiding Russia and Europe aiding Ukraine, perhaps. It will be a civil war (or a revolution, depending on its outcome), but hardly a war that will engulf the world in WWIII.
But then again.. this is the internet and you are free to express your alarmist opinions as you please, just as I am allowed to express mine. 'Nuff said.


by: Mary Dennon from: S.A.
March 14, 2014 10:34 AM
But Kerry is an admitted member of BOHEMIAN GROVE!!

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