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The Ukraine Crisis: The Crimean Referendum and after PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 23 April 2014 16:15

The referendum on the status of Crimea was held on March 16, 2014. The polling started at 6 AM local time and lasted 12 hours, the people were asked whether they wanted to join Russia as a federal subject, or if they wanted to restore the 1992 Crimean constitution and Crimea's status as part of Ukraine. The European Union, United States, Canada and several other nations condemned the decision to hold the referendum. In addition the Tatar who make about 12% of the peninsula’s population who are Sunni Muslims, called for a boycott of the vote. On march 15 The United Nations Security Council failed to adopt a resolution declaring the referendum invalid, because Russia vetoed it, However, the Crimean parliament and the Sevastopol city council considered the ousting of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22 as a coup , and the new interim government in Kiev as illegitimate. As a response to these developments, the Crimean leadership argued that they had to enquire of their people what they wanted for their future, whether they want to stay with the Ukraine or they preferred to go to Russia, so they scheduled a referendum for Sunday March 16, during which the Crimean officials declared that over 97% of voters supported the choice to join Russia with a turnout of over 80% of the 1.5 milion Crimean who were eligible to vote, the next day Crimea declared its independence from Ukraine the and requested to join the Russian Federation. On the same day, Russia recognized Crimea as a sovereign state.

The following are some of the major hallmarks in this still unfolding drama, which is undoubtedly the most serious confrontation between Russia and the west after the cold war which followed the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991.

20 Nov 2013: Kiev sees its worst day of violence for almost 70 years. At least 88 people are killed in 48 hours.  The killings sent shockwaves around the world and under very heavy EU pressure the president was forced to sign a deal to transfer powers to parliament and hold early elections which was not honored. One week later he had fled the capital and his administration had crumbled almost certainly a result of a very serious pressure from the army.

21 November: Ukraine  President Yanukovych's cabinet abandons an agreement on closer trade ties with the EU, instead seeking closer co-operation with Russia.

22 Feb: the Ukrainian parliament voted to impeach the president, they appointed an interim president and a prime minister, and called for an election in May to elect a new parliament and a president.

6 Mar: Crimea's parliament asks to join Russia and sets referendum for 16 March

15 Mar: Russia vetoes UN Security Council resolution condemning Crimea independence referendum

16 Mar: Crimea goes to the polls. Crimean officials say 97% of voters backed splitting from Ukraine, but the EU and US have declared the vote illegal and imposed sanctions. The government in Kiev described the vote as a "circus" held at gunpoint.

17 March: The Crimean parliament declares independence and formally applies to join Russia, Putin told Russia's parliament that Crimea has "always been part of Russia".    Mr. Putin and Crimea's leaders then signed an agreement formalizing the region's absorption into Russia. Crimea declared independence from Ukraine on Monday after a widely condemned referendum. Next day and in a highly emotional televised address in front of both houses of the Russian parliament, and in the presence of Crimea's new leaders, he said the people of Crimea clearly and convincingly expressed their will - they want to be with Russia," he said, and were no longer prepared to put up with the "historical injustice" of being part of Ukraine. He criticized Ukraine's post-uprising leaders and those behind the unrest, saying they were "extremists" who had brought chaos. And on Friday march 21 he signed the final decree completing the annexation of Crimea in Moscow, but the Ukrainians and their sympathizers in the EU and the united states refused to accept these results they called illegal and illegitimate and against international law and refused to recognize them and imposed a regime of sanctions on the Kremlin to which the Russians responded in kind,

18 March: Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses parliament, defending Moscow's actions on Crimea, then signs a bill to absorb the peninsula into the Russian Federation. Later, Ukraine says an officer has been killed as a military base is stormed in Simferopol, Crimea, the first such death in the region since pro-Russian forces took over in late February.

And on Friday march 21 he signed the final decree completing the annexation of Crimea in Moscow , but the Ukrainians and their sympathizers in the EU and the united states refused to accept these results they called illegal and illegitimate and against international law and refused to recognize them and imposed a regime of sanctions on the Kremlin to which the Russians responded in kind, EU leaders gathered in Brussels condemn Russia's "annexation" of Crimea and extend the list of individuals targeted for sanctions. The US also extends sanctions.

Tensions have been high since government buildings in east Ukraine we were taken over by pro-Russian activists, the Ukraine  authorities said that  the situation would be resolved in 48 hours either way, but Moscow has warned Ukraine that using force to end the protests could lead to civil war. The tensions escalated in eastern Ukraine after the anti-government, pro-Russian rebels seized official building and government offices buildings in ten towns in the east demanding greater autonomy or a referendum on secession, which prompted a hasty search to find a way out from the dark tunnel so the four players the us, the Russians, the EU and the new authority n the Ukraine agreed to sit down in Geneva on Thursday April 17 for that purpose.

The long awaited meeting finally got under way which lasted several hours at the end of which at about 2pm the four issued a statement in which they said they have agreed that there should be  an immediate halt to violence, in Ukraine, all sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation , or provocative action , all illegal armed groups must be disarmed, all illegally seized buildings must be returned to their legitimate owners, all illegally occupied streets or , squares and all other public places in Ukrainian cities and towns must be vacated the statement said, , this was very nice on paper,  but there was still a great deal of skepticism weather this agreement had a real chance of being implemented, in fact the skepticism was justified, because the pro Russia activists refused to honor the agreement calling for the removal of the new authority in Kiev which they marque  as  illegitimate, which came as a result of a military coup, plus other demands regarding the huge camps they were lodging in the center of the capital. Next day president Obama threatened to impose more sanctions on the Russians if president Putin did not impose the Geneva agreement on his surrogates, early on Sunday morning a group from one very radical Ukrainian group attacked a group of rebels killing at least three and injuring a doze, which enraged the Russians and made a very bad standoff much more serious.

The current Ukraine crisis is certainly the most serious confrontation between the west and the Russian federation since the days of the cold war which followed the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, and it looks like it is going to stay with us for some more time. Both sides in this tragic conflict are yet to find a common ground in their search for a peaceful solution to the situation. The Russian president is enjoying the game he is playing with the very big prize he is really after, the control of the whole of Ukraine or at least making sure it is not very much outside his sphere of influence, with some very powerful cards in his hands, he is playing in his own backyard about whose history, its geography and its culture he certainly a great deal, his opponents, in the Ukraine itself, the Europeans and the Americans are evidently in a less advantaged state , they don’t seem to have a  dynamic strategy on how to deal with this development which bodes ill for the future and is very difficult to predict or prophesy about.

Najeeb Hanoudi

Tuesday April 22, 2014

Southfield, MI 48076

 
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