A referendum on the status of Crimea is to be held on 16 March 2014. Crimea will vote on Sunday in a ballot referendum that leaders of the regional Parliament expect will ratify their decision to break away from Ukraine. Ukraine’s new leadership and its Western allies insist that the referendum is illegal. Dispute about legality or legitimacy of referendum is overshadowing the massacre in Kiev on 19.-21.Feb. 2014, an event which finalized the coup in Kiev, established the government which claims to be the legal one now in Ukraine.
Crimeans will vote on whether they want their autonomous republic to break away from Ukraine and join Russia. Ukraine – or better say present Kiev regime following the ousting of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych – and the West have dismissed the referendum as illegal. Both the Crimean parliament and the city council of Sevastopol consider the referendum legitimate as they consider the ousting of the former President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, to be illegal, arguing that it did not follow due process.
“We, the members of the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the Sevastopol City Council, with regard to the charter of the United Nations and a whole range of other international documents and taking into consideration the confirmation of the status of Kosovo by the United Nations International Court of Justice on July, 22, 2010, which says that unilateral declaration of independence by a part of the country doesn’t violate any international norms, make this decision,” says the text of the declaration, which was published by the Crimean media. 78 of 100 members of the parliament voted in favor of the declaration. If the referendum is in favor, the Crimean authorities will request for their country to become a constituent republic of the Russian Federation.
According to the provisional rules approved by the Crimean parliament, Ukrainian citizens aged 18 or older and registered as residents of Crimea can vote. They must produce a Ukrainian passport or any other identification document issued by the migration service. The Crimean parliament has formally invited OSCE election monitors, but the OSCE does not plan to send any because of its stance that the vote is “illegal”. Russia plans to send 24 MPs to observe the referendum and eight election officials to oversee the vote. Over 2.2 million ballots will be printed. About 1,250 voting stations will be ready. Russians comprise about 60% of Crimea’s population, Ukrainians around 25% and Tatars 12%.
The city of Sevastopol, which has a special administrative status, will hold a simultaneous referendum offering the same choices, which are following:
1. Are you in favor of the reunification of Crimea with Russia as a part of the Russian Federation?
2. Are you in favor of restoring the 1992 Constitution and the status of Crimea as a part of Ukraine?
Voters will have to mark one option affirmatively, but they cannot vote for the status quo. A return to the 1992 Constitution — adopted after the Soviet collapse but quickly thrown out by the post-Soviet Ukraine — would effectively provide for Crimea’s independence, while remaining part of Ukraine. The Crimean government would have broad powers to chart its own course, including its relations with other nations such as Russia.
With pro-Russian forces firmly in control of Crimea politically and militarily as well popular support, it wouldn’t be a big surprise if the result is in favour of Crimea being incorporated into Russia.
The transfer of the Crimean Oblast to Ukraine has been described as a “symbolic gesture,” by Nikita Khrushchev, marking the 300th anniversary of Ukraine becoming a part of the Russian Empire. Besides gesture one motivation for annaxation might be the aim to water down the influence of the nazi elements in the western Ukraine that had fought for Adolf Hitler against the Soviet Union during World War 2.
Crimea had re-gained its autonomy following a 1991 referendum. Voters were asked whether they wanted to re-establish the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, which had been abolished in 1945. The proposal was approved by 94% of voters. Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine abolished the 1992 Crimean Constitution and the office of President of Crimea in 1995. Crimea gained a new constitution in 1998 that granted less autonomy; notably, any legislation passed by the Crimean parliament could be vetoed by the Ukrainian parliament.
Resentment against the central government in Kiev has been on the rise in Crimea since the 2004 Orange revolution. If, in 1996 and 2001, only half of Crimean residents supported rejoining Russia, by 2008 a survey by the Kiev based Razumkov Center showed that, among those who had made up their mind on the issue, 73 percent backed secession from Ukraine with a goal of joining Russia. In the latest poll, taken by the Crimean Republic’s Institute for Political and Sociological Research, 85 percent say they plan to take part in the referendum, and 77 percent say they will vote to join the Russian Federation.
Ukraine and the West have dismissed the secession referendum in Crimea as unconstitutional and illegal but the same could be claimed about present Ukrainian government in Kiev. In my opinion the core question from legal point is that referendum itself is not against international law. The other question is that the referendum and actions after result might be against some Ukrainian constitution but one can ask how valid that and the government in Kiev are. Formally separation is similar like in Kosovo which was later deemed to be according international law. The only difference is argument if there has been oppression against local population or not; in Kosovo it was estimated that this was true so far in Crimea there is not enough evidence about case. There is of course also difference between international law and sc international community as later is more related to politics than law.
Former chief of Ukraine’s Security Service has confirmed allegations that snipers who killed dozens of people during the violent unrest in Kiev operated from a building controlled by the opposition on Maidan square. Shots that killed both civilians and police officers were fired from the Philharmonic Hall building in Ukraine’s capital, former head of the Security Service of Ukraine Aleksandr Yakimenko told Russia 1 channel. The building was under full control of the opposition and particularly the so-called Commandant of Maidan self-defense Andrey Parubiy who after the coup was appointed as the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Yakimenko added. Furthermore the former security chief believes that Parubiy has been in contact with US Special Forces that could have coordinated the assault.
Snipers shoot from Maidan activists office.
There is also a theory that the snipers came from an ultra-right-wing military organization known as Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian People’s Self-Defense (UNA-UNSO). According to veteran US intelligence sources, UNA-UNSO members have been behind every revolt against Russian influence. The one connecting thread in their violent campaigns is always anti-Russia. The organization is part of a secret NATO “GLADIO” organization. UNA-UNSO members have been behind every revolt against Russian influence. The one connecting thread in their violent campaigns is always anti-Russia. UNA-UNSO have been involved (confirmed officially) in the Lithuanian events in the Winter of 1991, the Soviet Coup d’etat in Summer 1991, the war for the Pridnister Republic 1992, the anti-Moscow Abkhazia War 1993, the Chechen War, the US-organized Kosovo Campaign Against the Serbs, and the August 8 2008 war in Georgia. UNA-UNSO is also reported to have close ties to the German National Democratic Party (NDP).
Evidence has accumulated demonstrating the Euromaidan movement was artificially created by the architects of color revolution – the State Department, USAID, and the Soros NGOs – and this movement, consisting in large part of sincere yet duped Ukrainians attempting to effectuate political change, was cynically used to install a preferred minion in power, namely Arseniy “Yats” Yatsenyuk, a central banker, to protect of interests of some Ukrainian oligarchs. (Source:Infowars:Order Out of Chaos: Gladio Snipers Behind Killings in Kyiv)
Media outlets expect the choice to join Russia to be declared as winner. Thus, while by any account Crimea’s legal basis for holding a referendum is weak, so is also the legitimacy of present Ukrainian (Kiev) government especially if one takes seriously the claims related to Euromaidan massacre. It is worth recalling that when, on February 27, the Crimean parliament first decided to hold a referendum on expanding regional autonomy, it was exclusively within the context of remaining in Ukraine. It was Kiev’s ham-fisted attempt to replace key regional officials after agreeing not to do so that led to the inclusion of a second option to join Russia.
Meanwhile Russian companies withdraw billions from west, fearful that any US sanctions over the Crimean crisis could lead to an asset freeze. Sberbank and VTB, Russia’s giant partly state-owned banks, as well as industrial companies, such as energy group Lukoil, are among those repatriating cash from western lenders with operations in the US.
On the bottom line the referendum does matter. If the result is that most people in Crimea want to join Russia so this can help to find a deal between U.S., the present government and Russia. A win-win face saving solution could be that Crimea will be annexed to Russia and as compensation Ukraine will get e.g. cheaper gas deal, most oligarchs can keep their loot, the ordinary people can get at best relatively stable conditions for a while and U.S. a puppet government in Kiev. The most important outcome could be that the battle moves from verge of war to political and economic fields.
This entry was posted on Sunday, March 16th, 2014 at 2:15 am and is filed under Black Sea region. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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About Ari Rusila
Ari Rusila is a blogger and former development project management expert from Finland with a special interest in the Balkan region. His other interests include geopolitics, conflicts and The Great Middle East. <"Conflicts By Ari Rusila [aka ex-BalkanBlog] - ISSN 2342-6675 - covers issues of conflicts and regionally the Balkans (esp. Serbia), the Black Sea region and MENA (the greater Middle East and North Africa and esp. Israel) regions as well EurAsia.
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