Crimea joins Russia

by our European Affairs correspondent

Crimea has joined the Russian Federation following an overwhelming vote to secede from Ukraine and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon is flying to Moscow and Kiev for crisis-limitation talks with Russian and Ukrainian leaders.

Ukrainian naval personnel, who have refused to pledge loyalty to the Crimean authorities, peacefully left the Ukrainian Navy headquarters in the city of Sevastopol after demonstrators over-ran the premises but one Ukrainian soldier and another from the Crimean Self-Defence Forces were killed and two others were injured when the Crimean forces closed a Ukrainian military compound in the capital, Simferopol.

Now the last vestiges of Ukrainian authority are being removed from the peninsula. Crimea will switch to Moscow time and its currency to the rouble by the end of the month though Ukrainian money will still be valid until 2016.

The referendum has been dismissed by the imperialist powers backing the puppet regime in Kiev. The Americans and their Nato allies have imposed selective sanctions on Russia and are threatening to impose loads more in the near future. But Russia has warned that it will switch to other trade partners if economic sanctions are imposed by the US and the European Union.

At the United Nations Security Council Russia vetoed an imperialist-backed resolution condemning the Crimea referendum which got 13 votes in the 15-member council with China abstaining. The resolution also urged all parties to immediately pursue a peaceful resolution to the dispute through direct political talks — something the Kremlin refuses to do because it says the Kiev regime came to power through a coup d’etat and that its leadership is driven by radical nationalists, neo-nazis, Russophobes and anti-semites.

tension rising

In Ukraine itself tension is rising in the south and east of the country which is overwhelmingly opposed to the new regime. Demonstrators have taken over government offices and driven out Kievappointed officials demanding new elections, a federal government or union with Russia and the Kiev regime has little authority beyond the western regions that are dominated by the fascist militias.

Though the vote was a foregone conclusion thousands of people gathered in Lenin Square in Simferopol to hear the preliminary results of the count. Large numbers of Tatars and Ukrainians defied the calls of their pro-Kiev leaders to boycott the poll and it’s clear that many of them supported union with Russia.

Crimea has been part of Russia for over 200 years and under Lenin and Stalin it was an autonomous republic within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the biggest Soviet republic in the USSR. But in 1954 it was handed over to the Ukrainian soviet republic by Nikita Krushchov, who was a Ukrainian himself.

All in all 96.77 per cent of voters said “yes” to the reunion of the republic with Russia as a constituent unit of the Russian Federation.

Only 3.2 percent of the ballots were cast for staying with Ukraine as an autonomous republic with broader rights. The remaining 1.1 per cent of the ballots were declared invalid. The turnout was 83 per cent.


Russian President Vladimir Putin said western criticism of the vote was an example of double standards and hypocrisy. “They have constantly tried to drive us into a corner for our independent stance, for defending it, for calling things their proper names and not being hypocritical,” he told the federal assembly at an extraordinary session in the Kremlin’s St George Hall.. “But there are limits and in the case of Ukraine our Western partners have crossed a line. They behaved rudely, irresponsibly and unprofessionally”

“In the hearts and minds of people, Crimea has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia,” said Putin, who added that ethnic Russians had found themselves isolated from the motherland when the Soviet Union collapsed, both in Crimea and elsewhere.

“Millions of Russians went to sleep in one country and woke up living abroad, as a national minority in former republics of the union. The Russian people became one of the biggest, if not the biggest, split-up nation in the world.”

Putin aired a list of foreign policy grievances going back to 2000, saying: “We were cheated again and again, with decisions being taken behind our back”, and insisted that it was ludicrous for the West to claim the precedent of Kosovo — which was recognised by the West as an independent country following its secession from Serbia — as unique.

“How would our colleagues claim its uniqueness? It turns out because during the Kosovo conflict there were many human casualties. What, is that supposed to be a valid legal argument?” he asked.

Putin signed the union treaty with the Crimean leaders in Moscow on Tuesday. It will need to be endorsed by Russia’s Constitutional Court and ratified by both houses of the Russian parliament but that is a formality and the procedure is expected to be completed by the end of this week.