News / Europe

Kyiv Somber, Angry Over Crimea Result

Members of a military special unit stand guard in front of a Ukrainian parliament building in Kyiv, March 17, 2014.
Members of a military special unit stand guard in front of a Ukrainian parliament building in Kyiv, March 17, 2014.
With local officials in Crimea saying that 97 percent of voters in the Black Sea Peninsula backed breaking with Ukraine in Sunday's referendum, the reaction in Kyiv is a mixture of anger and resignation.

The super-majority secured in Sunday's referendum in Crimea has left many Ukrainians agreeing with U.S. Senator John McCain, who while visiting Kyiv over the weekend questioned the vote's validity, saying it was "just like the old days in the Soviet Union."

The vote to separate from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation two weeks after Russian forces seized Crimea has left Ukrainian politicians divided over the next steps. Should they accept the break as completed and move on, focusing their strengths on rebuilding Ukraine, or should they continue to resist, and if so how?

Lawmaker Lesya Orobets, one of the leaders of the Maidan revolution that toppled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych that triggered the Russian seizing of the peninsula, said Crimea must not  be traded for peace but that resistance can't be tackled militarily. "There is no government in the world ready for the war with Russia. We can't win this war in military terms. It is not possible. What we can win is the war in diplomatic and informational sense. So we put all efforts into that," Orobets stated.
With challenges mounting, from staving off economic collapse to preventing other ethnic Russian regions from breaking with Ukraine, longtime Ukraine resident Michael Willard, who owns a leading public relations agency in Kyiv, said Ukrainians have no alternative but to accept what has happened.
"Ukraine doesn't have a military like Russia does. It would be suicidal for them to go up against Russia," Willard explained. "It would be even shorter probably than the Georgian war and that would be tragic. So given the odds, no other options, I think they would probably have to."

But there are still plenty of possible sources of friction and conflict to come over what happens to Ukrainian state property in the peninsula, including the country's 19 warships currently blockaded in their Black Sea port by the Russian navy.
Yuriy Meshkov, who was President of Crimea between 1994 and 1995 and has been a longtime advocate of reunion with Russia, said the warships and all Ukraine's state property now belongs to Russia and no compensation should be forthcoming.  

While the Ukrainians absorb the loss of Crimea, worries are mounting here that other majority ethnic Russian regions in eastern and southern Ukraine will consider joining Russia.

Over the weekend about 5,000 pro-Russian protesters roamed central Donetsk in eastern Ukraine smashing doors and windows and forcing entry to government buildings. And in the Black Sea port of Odessa thousands of pro-Russian demonstrators also took to the streets.

Ukraine's new leaders claim Moscow has sent Russian provocateurs who are stirring much of the trouble. The Kremlin denies this and has warned it is ready to send forces massed on the border to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine, the initial reason given for seizing Crimea.

Brian Bonner, editor of the English-language newspaper the Kyiv Post said that what strikes him is how restrained Ukrainian soldiers are. "They have been remarkably so far not giving in to provocations by shooting," he noted. "Nobody wants to fire the first shot here and let's hope there is no shot fired."

But with tensions high, some fear the war of words could escalate into shooting.

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Comment Sorting
by: Lana from: Canada
March 17, 2014 10:49 PM
I am Ukrainian and I have one wish that Russiaphobia has stop! there was no invasion of Crimea. People of Crimea asked for help from Russia in respond to self-imposed government of Ukraine to outlaw Russian language. As you may know that the language, mother tong, is essential for one self-determination and self-worth. Also, I glad to see that the article recognizes south-eastern parts of Ukraine as Russian ethnic regions, as such they have right to preserve their language and culture. Also, the illegal interim government of Ukraine, is represented by ultra right sector, mainly party of Svoboda (Freedom). Its slogan is "Ukraine for Ukrainian." This is pretty similar to Nazi slogan "Germany for Germans," which was a pre-cursor for ethnic cleansing, and so many people died. In general, before making any comments, please read information from different sources, as well as history of the country and its culture.

by: Mark from: Virginia
March 17, 2014 11:46 AM
This is how the Nazis did it, this is how the Soviets did it, and now it is happening again, with the Russians, sans Socialism. Divide and conquer. Show a little legality in occupying part of a region, and force a plebiscite to swallow the whole of the region. The Ukrainians have a right to be worried, and it is very unfortunate for them, as they cannot stand on their own against Russia militarily, it would be suicide. They will lose the Crimean peninsula, and thus weakened, may lose other parts of their country in the same fashion.

No foreign nation can, or should, intervene militarily as it would engulf everyone in another disastrous and destructive war. Sanctions will not restore what was lost, it will only hurt the entire area, multiple countries will be affected. Russia will take the Crimea, relatively unopposed, but it will be a costly seizure for them, now and for many years to come. There is no satisfactory outcome for anyone now, that time is long past.

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