The disputed Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea formally applied to join Russia Monday, after its people voted 97 percent in favor of a referendum to secede. The referendum has been condemned as illegal by Ukrainian leaders and the U.S. and its European allies are expected to announce sanctions against Russia Monday.
European Union foreign ministers moved quickly to impose travel bans, and froze the assets of 21 people linked to the Ukraine unrest Monday.
A statement on Crimea’s parliament website said it proposed “to the Russian Federation to admit the Republic of Crimea as a new subject with the status of a republic,” Reuters reported.
The proposal came after Crimea’s election chief Mikhail Malyshev said in a televised news conference Monday that the final tally of voters in favor of joining Russia was 96.77 percent. The announcement was merely confirmation of what had been expected once the referendum was announced by the region’s parliament earlier this month.
Later Monday, the Crimean parliament voted to formally declare its independence from Ukraine. In the same resolution, it said that all Ukrainian state property on the territory of the Black Sea peninsula will be nationalized and become the property of the Crimean Republic. A delegation of Crimean lawmakers is set to travel to Moscow Monday for negotiations on how to proceed further. Russian lawmakers have suggested that formally annexing Crimea is just a matter of time. Crimean lawmakers have also asked the United Nations and other nations to recognize it.
The election had been denounced as illegal and destabilizing by the U.S., the European Union, and the interim Ukrainian government. The vote offered residents of the strategic Black Sea peninsula the choice of seeking annexation by Russia or remaining in Ukraine with greater autonomy.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Monday that he was confident that the 28 E.U. member nations would reach agreement Monday on which Russian officials to hit with sanctions, which would possibly include asset freezes and visa restrictions. Hague also hinted that more measures could be taken at a summit of E.U. leaders due to begin Thursday.
President Obama spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the vote, and the White House said it would reject the results of the referendum held “under threats of violence and intimidation.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also spoke to Putin by phone Sunday, proposing that an international observer mission in Ukraine be expanded quickly as tensions rise in the east. Her spokesman said she also condemned the Russian seizure of a gas plant near the Ukrainian village of Strilkove Saturday.
Opponents of secession appeared to largely stay away Sunday, denouncing the vote as a cynical power play/land grab by Russia. But turnout was reported to be well above the 50 percent that would make the referendum binding.
Russian lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky said the annexation could take “from three days to three months,” according to the Interfax news agency.
Valery Ryazantsev, head of Russia’s observer mission in Crimea and a lawmaker from the upper house of the Russian parliament, said Monday that the results are beyond dispute. He told the Interfax news agency that there are “absolutely no reasons to consider the vote results illegitimate.”
Senior officials in Moscow were discussing Crimea’s annexation as a fait accompli. Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov said the region could receive tax breaks.
“We want to go back home, and today we are going back home,” said Viktoria Chernyshova, a 38-year-old businesswoman. “We needed to save ourselves from those unprincipled clowns who have taken power in Kiev.”
Ukraine’s new government in Kiev called the referendum a “circus” directed at gunpoint by Moscow, referring to the thousands of troops that now occupy the peninsula, which has traded hands repeatedly since ancient times.
“Today is a holiday!” said 66-year-old Vera Sverkunova, breaking into a patriotic war song: “I want to go home to Russia. It’s been so long since I’ve seen my mama.”
The referendum comes two weeks after Russian-led forces seized control of Crimea. Locals say they fear the new Ukrainian government that took over when President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia last month will oppress them.
Putin insisted the referendum was conducted in “full accordance with international law and the U.N. charter.” At the United Nations on Saturday, Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution declaring the referendum illegal. China, its ally, abstained and 13 of the 15 other nations on the council voted in favor – a signal of Moscow’s isolation.
Andrew Weiss, vice president for Russian and East European studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, suggested the confrontation could intensify.
Russia “is really turning its back on the outside world and is basically going to say to the West, ‘Now, go ahead. Show us how tough you are.’ And the West, I think, is struggling to come with an adequate response.”
Ukraine’s Regional Policy Minister Volodymyr Groisman told The Associated Press that the new government was already working on giving towns and regions more autonomy but said there were no plans to turn Ukraine into a federation.
In Donetsk, one of the main cities in eastern Ukraine, pro-Russia demonstrators called Sunday for a referendum similar to the one in Crimea and some of them stormed the prosecutor-general’s office.
In Sevastopol, speakers blared the city anthem up and down the streets, giving off a block-party feeling. But the military threat was not far away – a Russian naval warship still blocked the port’s outlet to the Black Sea, trapping Ukrainian boats.
At a polling station inside a historic school, tears came to Vladimir Lozovoy, a 75-year-old retired Soviet naval officer, as he talked about his vote.
“I want to cry. I have finally returned to my motherland. It is an incredible feeling. This is the thing I have been waiting for for 23 years,” he said.
But Crimea’s large Muslim Tatar minority – whose families had been forcibly removed from their homeland and sent to Central Asia during Soviet times – remained defiant.
The Crimea referendum “is a clown show, a circus,” Tatar activist Refat Chubarov said on Crimea’s Tatar television station. “This is a tragedy, an illegitimate government with armed forces from another country.”
The fate of Ukrainian soldiers trapped in their Crimean bases by pro-Russian forces was still uncertain. Crimea’s pro-Russian authorities have said if those soldiers don’t surrender after Sunday’s vote, they will be considered “illegal.”
“This is our land and we’re not going anywhere from this land,” Ukraine’s acting defense minister, Igor Tenyuk, was quoted as saying Sunday by the Interfax news agency.
But Tenyuk later said an agreement had been reached with Russia that its forces would not block Ukrainian soldiers in Crimea through Friday. It was not clear exactly what that meant.
On the streets of Simferopol, blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flags were nowhere to seen but red, white and blue Russian and Crimean flags fluttered in abundance.
Ethnic Ukrainians interviewed outside the Ukrainian Orthodox cathedral of Vladimir and Olga said they refused to take part in the referendum, calling it an illegal charade stage-managed by Moscow. Some said they were scared of the potential for widespread discrimination and harassment in the coming weeks, similar to what happened in parts of nearby Georgia, another former Soviet republic, after its 2008 war with Russia.
“We’re just not going to play these separatist games,” said Yevgen Sukhodolsky, a 41-year-old prosecutor from Saki, a town outside Simferopol. “Putin is the fascist. The Russian government is fascist.”
Vasyl Ovcharuk, a retired gas pipe layer who worked at Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, predicted dark days ahead for Crimea.
“This will end up in military action, in which peaceful people will suffer. And that means everybody. Shells and bullets are blind,” he said.
You don’t see turnouts like this very often.
123% of Sevastopol, Crimea residents voted yesterday to join with Mother Russia.
Pravda Ukraine reported:
If you believe the Crimean “authorities”, 474,137 people voted in Sevastopol “referendum”.
However, as of November 1, 2013, according to the statistics in Sevastopol , all the permanent population of the city – 383,499 people, and is present at the time – 385,462 people.
At the end of last year, the voting population of Sebastopol was 385,462. This tailored to the children who did not have the right to vote. 474,137 – 385,462 = 88,675 people accidentally appeared in Sevastopol to vote during the referendum. 474 137/385 462 * 100 = 123% of Sevastopol voted for entry into Russia.
There’s no question about it – we’re currently involved in a full Cold War-style standoff with Russia right now over what’s going on in Ukraine.
The Crimean region just overwhelmingly (95% of the vote) passed a referendum to join the Russian Federation. Obviously, with thousands of Russian troops ominously looking on nearby, this was essentially voting at gunpoint.
The vote has already been condemned by the government of Ukraine, the US, and most of the rest of the West. Russian president Vladimir Putin is flexing his muscle to see just how tough Western governments really are. e knows Obama is weak, and he has the president looking clueless and spineless on the world stage.
As threats of sanctions from the UN and individual nations loom large, you’d expect for our president to be actively involved in the process of crafting official US national security policy to deal with this crisis. Wrong.
Obama has skipped yet another national security staff meeting on the situation, instead opting to be briefed on the meeting. Amazing.
Remember, he already skipped one national security staff meeting while a Russian invasion of Ukraine was impending and was instead briefed by Susan Rice, the same woman who spent weeks telling us that Benghazi had everything to do with a YouTube video.
President Barack Obama’s national security team discussed the Ukraine crisis in a session at the White House on Saturday after a last-ditch bid to find a diplomatic solution to the Cold War-style standoff with Russia floundered.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who just returned from talks with his Russian counterpart in London, was at the White House meeting along with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Obama did not attend the meeting but was being briefed about it and other developments involving Ukraine, said Laura Lucas Magnuson, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council.
Being briefed on a meeting of this gravity is no substitute for being actively involved in the process of deciding what the official US response to the Ukraine crisis will be. s Commander in Chief, Obama is charged with being the sole organ of foreign policy in the United States – not Congress or another branch of government or the military. His utter disregard for his most important duty shows that he isn’t remotely fit for office. It’s past time to impeach.
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Cupcake and Mom Jeans, in charge of fore-in policy.
Bolton is however wrong about there being no votes before. In 1991, Ukraine including Crimea voted along with the the rest of Ukraine to be an independent entity. 54% of Crimeans (not under a gun) voted to be part of an independent Ukraine.
Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton has been an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, but this latest comparison literally “takes the cake.” While appearing on Fox News to discuss the referendum in the Crimea to join Russia, Bolton discussed the weak sanctions America is taking against Russia:
“I don’t think [the sanctions] will have much impact. I think the Obama administration and the Europeans are demonstrating weakness, these sanctions are pinpricks, and y’know we sent Secretary of State John Kerry to London to negotiate with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, that’s like sending a cupcake to negotiate with a steak knife.”
Bolton continued to describe the collective failure of leadership in the West, which he says has ignored these threats for five years, and is now seeing the consequences of this inattentiveness. Finally, he predicts that Putin will use the Crimea to get what he “really wants, which is a government subservient to Russia.”
Meanwhile, Obama is defending his wearing of mom-pants to Ryan Seacrest in an attempt to sell Obamacare to young people.
The Crimean crisis moved a step closer to all-out war today as Ukraine mobilised its armed forces and a firebrand Kremlin mouthpiece warned America to stay out of its business, declaring: ‘We could turn you to radioactive ash.’
Since a referendum called for Crimea’s annexation to Russia last night, tensions between Russia, Ukraine and the rest of the world have risen faster than at any point since the stand off erupted three weeks ago.
As dawn broke this morning, the Ukrainian parliament approved the deployment of 40,000 battle-ready soldiers as it vowed to ‘defend our homeland’ from any incursion.
But with a pool of just 160,000 active frontline personel, the Ukrainian armed forces are dwarfed by a Russian army that includes more than 700,000 men and women and many more in reserve.
Already tens of thousands of heavily-armed Russian troops – mostly in uniforms without identifying insignia – stand guard over swathes of Crimea as Moscow appeared to ratchet up its rhetoric, ignoring western pleas for peace.
Instead, it upped the ante when the head of its state news agency, Dmitry Kiselyov, issued a thinly-veiled threat to America on live TV, urging the superpower to stay out of the crisis or risk facing the full force of Russia’s military muscle.
Speaking against a backdrop of a nuclear mushroom cloud, Kiselyov – who was handpicked personally by president Vladimir Putin – told viewers of his popular news show: ‘Russia is the only country in the world that is realistically capable of turning the United States into radioactive ash.’
Far from warding the US and Europe off, however, his incendiary remarks only added to the situation’s trembling volatility.
This morning Barack Obama responded to Russia’s growing belligerence and imposed visa bans and asset freezes on 11 Russian and Ukrainian politicians blamed for the military incursion, in the most comprehensive sanctions applied to Russia since the end of the Cold War.
Among those sanctioned were ousted Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovich and Putin aides Vladislov Surkov and Sergei Glazyev.
Within hours, the European Union followed suit, imposing similar sanctions on 21 Russian and Ukrainian politicians.
In further developments today, Ukraine recalled its ambassador to Russia for consultations on the international ramifications of the situation in its Crimea region.
‘In connection with the situation in Crimea and the necessity of discussing some of its international aspects, the Ukrainian side is recalling its ambassador to the Russian Federation, Volodymyr Yelchenko,’ the Foreign Ministry said.
Today’s events come after Crimea’s parliament declared itself an independent state, following a regional referendum yesterday that saw 96.6 per cent of its residents vote to break off from Ukraine and join Russia.
The referendum, however, is not recognised by the West, and the United States and the European Union are preparing further sanctions against Russia, whose troops have been occupying Crimea for several weeks.
The White House has dismissed the secession vote in Crimea as an illegal power grab by the former Soviet state, saying it violated both the Ukrainian constitution and international law, and urged president Putin not to follow through with threats to annex the peninsular.
And today a senior US diplomat revealed there is ‘concrete evidence’ that some ballots arrived ‘pre-marked’ in the referendum adding that other voting anomalies were also detected.
As a shot across Russia’s bows, Obama today warned that continued Russian military intervention in Ukraine would only increase Russia’s isolation and exact a greater toll on its economy.
‘If Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose further sanctions,’ he said.
Amid fears that Russia might move into eastern Ukraine, Obama said further provocations will achieve nothing except to ‘further isolate Russia and diminish its place in the world.’
Senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the penalties said they were the most comprehensive sanctions applied to Russia since the end of the Cold War.
The European Union took similar steps, targeting 21 people in Russia and Crimea while leaving open the possibility of adding harsher economic measures when EU leaders meet later this week.
At a briefing today, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague revealed Britain would join Europe in reducing its dependence on Russian energy which currently supplies 30 per cent of the continent’s gas.
‘We have started today discussing the longer term, the need to reduce European dependence on Russian energy over many years to come,’ he said. ‘It is some of these sorts of things that will be the biggest costs in the long term to Russia if we make no diplomatic progress over the coming weeks.’
As Ukraine recalled its ambassador to Russia for consultations on the international ramifications of the situation in its Crimea region, Ukrainian foreign minister Andrii Deshchytsya also came out fighting today, promising that his government was ‘prepared to defend our homeland’.
He told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One programme: ‘We are very much concerned with the deployment of Russian troops on the eastern border of Ukraine and the number of provocations made by Russians in eastern regions of Ukraine.
‘We are prepared to defend our homeland if Russia will decide to move further into the eastern parts of Ukraine.’
Mr Deshchytsya said the sanctions agreed today were a ‘step forward in mobilising the international community’.
‘But I think we also need to deepen our relations with the European Union,’ he said.
Parts of the Crimea is now swarming with well-armed soldiers without identifying insignia but believed to have been sent across the border by Russia.
Crimean lawmakers have asked the United Nations and other nations to recognize it.
A delegation of Crimean lawmakers is set to travel to Moscow Monday for negotiations on how to proceed further. Russian lawmakers have suggested that formally annexing Crimea is almost certain.
The Kremlin clearly put the issue on a fast track. Both houses of parliament were set to gather for a joint meeting in the Kremlin on Tuesday to hear President Vladimir Putin’s address on the subject.
In Kiev, the national parliament approved acting President Oleksandr Turchynov’s call for a military mobilization that would include 20,000 volunteers with previous military experience, and reservists.
Ukraine recently formed a national guard also about 20,000-strong.
Turchynov said the order was necessary “considering the continuing aggression in… Crimea, which Russia is trying to disguise with a large farce called `referendum,’ which will never be accepted by Crimea or the whole civilized world,” he was quoted as saying by the Intefax news agency.
Russia is expected to face strong sanctions from the U.S. and Europe over backing the Crimean referendum, which could also encourage rising pro-Russian sentiment in Ukraine’s east and lead to further divisions in this nation of 46 million. Residents in western Ukraine and the capital, Kiev, are strongly pro-West and Ukrainian nationalist.
Russian forces effectively took control of Crimea late last month after Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country in the wake of months of protests.
The libertarian godfather has become one of the biggest cheerleaders for the “referendum” that will lead to Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula.
In the Crimea crisis, it seems Ron Paul thinks that libertarianism stops at water’s edge.
The former Republican congressman and libertarian icon has long enjoyed a mixed reputation in the United States. While many admire Paul for his small government views on civil liberties, other shy away from a politician who has criticized the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and allowed a series of racist and conspiratorial news letters to be published under his own name.
However, the former congressman whose presidential bids in 2008 and 2012 helped elevate libertarians from a political afterthought to a key constituency in the Republican Party and whose son, Rand Paul is poised for a 2016 bid for the White House, has now started a new chapter of his career. He’s defending the chauvinist and imperialist Russian regime of President Vladimir Putin.
Over the past several weeks, Paul has become one of the most vocal American supporters of Russia’s invasion and occupation of Crimea, a semi-autonomous region of Ukraine. In the aftermath of a revolution that drove out its ally in Kiev, Viktor Yanukovych, Moscow is attempting to annex the province by holding a “referendum” Sunday in hopes that it will provide a patina of legality to its blatantly illegal land grab. Paul, long a foe of military action and democracy promotion efforts overseas, has not been content to limit himself to criticisms of American policies in Eastern Europe. He has gone out of his way to legitimize and justify the actions of Putin.
“He’s no angel but actually he has some law on his side,” Paul said earlier this week on the Fox Business Network. “They have contracts and agreements and treaties for a naval base there and the permission to go about that area.” While Russia has leased its naval base from the Ukrainian government in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol until 2042, the terms of that agreement explicitly prohibit Russian forces from leaving their barracks, never mind overrunning and occupying government buildings, violating Ukraine’s airspace, and taking over border posts.
It is for this reason that the 20,000 or so Russian forces now spread out across the peninsula, harassing journalists and threatening anyone else who protests their presence there, are not wearing Russian uniforms; according to Moscow, these men are “local self-defense forces,” not Russian soldiers. This is a lie, and only the most slavish of Russian propagandists are claiming otherwise.
Russia’s actions also violate the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, which it signed along with the United Kingdom and the United States, committing all parties “to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine” in exchange for Kiev’s transferring its then-considerable post-Soviet nuclear weapons stockpile to Moscow.
Paul and his supporters used to complain that the American media and political establishment never gave him a fair shake in his various presidential campaigns, so it is a little odd to see him and his denizens providing a democratic gloss to Sunday’s “referendum” on Crimea’s status. The referendum on the Crimea is happening quite literally at gunpoint as Russian forces have occupied the entire peninsula and offers no option for Crimeans to maintain their current status within the Ukraine. Instead, voters can either vote to allow Russia to annex the peninsula or “reunification of Crimea with Russia” in the parlance of the ballot or to “restore the 1992 Constitution and the status of Crimea as a part of Ukraine.” (Early exit polls show 93% of Crimean voters chose to join Russia.)
The referendum – which has been denounced as illegal by outside observers, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – was only scheduled by the Crimean parliament after armed men occupied that body in late February. Those gunmen installed a pro-Russian figurehead as the region’s Prime Minister, as well – a guy named Sergey Aksyonov, the alleged criminal leader of a miniscule pro-Russian political party which has never earned more than 4% at the polls.
But for Ron Paul and the acolytes at his think tank, a motley crew of Putin apologists and admirers of post-Soviet thugs, Sunday’s sham election is all about the spirit of 1776. He recently wrote that “The only question that remains is whether there will there be an honest election, and I don’t see any reason there can’t be.” He did this on the website of his Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, which, in light of current events might be better called the Ron Paul Institute for Russian Aggression and Economic Exploitation (Its director, Daniel McAdams, has referred to the American ambassador to Ukraine as an “outlaw.”)
Paul bases his support of the Crimean referendum on libertarian grounds, as if what’s happening half a world away under the watchful eyes of the Russian military is akin to a Tea Party protest demanding less federal control over education policy. “There should be a right of secession,” Paul said on Fox. One cannot consider Paul’s defense of the Crimean “secession” without first becoming familiar with his nostalgia for the American one.
A crucial element of Paul’s worldview and that of his paleoconservative brethren is that America began to go to hell in a hand-basket with the Union victory in the American Civil War. Abraham Lincoln’s firm use of executive power to crush the slaveholding states’ attempt to secede initiated, in their view, the centralization of federal government power that continues to this day. The 1992 issue of the Ron Paul Survival Report (the name of which was a deliberate appeal to the then burgeoning far-right “survivalist” movement preparing for racial apocalypse) stated that “the right of secession should be ingrained in a free society” and that “there is nothing wrong with loosely banding together small units of government. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, we too should consider it.” Ironically, while Paul was applauding Ukrainian independence 20 years ago, he is now cheering the Crimea’s forcible reintegration into Russia.
In addition to whitewashing Russian aggression, Paul depicts some of the most benign elements of America’s overseas involvement as nefarious and illegitimate. “The evidence is pretty clear that the NGOs [non-governmental organizations] financed by our government have been agitating with billions of dollars, trying to get that government changed,” he told The Guardian. “Our hands are not clean.”
By this, Paul was referring to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a U.S.-government funded, independently operated grant-making institution that supports civil society organizations in authoritarian states as well as emerging democracies. It enjoys bipartisan support, but has long been a target of Paul and other American isolationists, who see malevolence in everything their government does. Paul’s belief that America was trying to orchestrate “regime change” in Ukraine goes back to at least 2004, when he railed against supposed NED “meddling” in the 2004 presidential election that Yanukovych attempted to steal. (For the curious, here’s a list of NED grantees in Ukraine, which range from a “weekly youth journal” to election monitoring outfits).
To be sure, Yanukovych’s election theft was exposed and resisted by some U.S. and European government-funded civil society organizations, which would scarcely be able to exist without outside support. Why Americans should be outraged about this is something Paul neglects to answer.
There is an irony in a so-called “libertarian” defending the likes of Vladimir Putin. Ron Paul and his ilk claim to support individual rights, free markets, and a foreign policy of non-violence, yet here they are defending a man who hounds gays, presides over a kleptocratic mafia state, and invades his neighbors. Paul shirks the label of “isolationist,” preferring instead that of, “non-interventionist,” which is true only in the sense that he opposes interventionism – of even the non-violent sort – undertaken by the United States and its democratic allies. When it comes to violent Russian intervention in the affairs of its sovereign neighbors, however, Paul agrees with none other than former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who said that Moscow retains a “sphere of privileged interests” among the ex-vassal states of the Soviet Union. Why would a formerly elected official in America lend ideological cover to a foreign dictator’s assault on the basic human rights of his own people?