by Tony Iozzo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine – Voting in a referendum to decide whether Ukraine’s southern region of Crimea will secede from the Ukraine and become a territory of Russia, ended a short while ago.
Approximately 1.5 million voters were expected to show up to polls, and it is widely believed that the outcome will be that Crimea will split from the Ukraine and join Russia. Polls were open for twelve hours beginning at 6:00 GMT on Sunday.
Voters had the choice of two options on the referendum ballot: either, “are you in favor of the reunification of Crimea with Russia as a part of the Russian Federation?” or “are you in favor of restoring the 1992 Constitution and the status of Crimea as a part of Ukraine?”
If Crimea citizens choose to restore the 1992 constitution, the Crimea government would be afforded broad authority to institute its own laws and structure its governance, and it would remain an area under the Ukraine. Western countries have expressed opposition to the referendum, and most have stated that they will not recognize it. The Kremlin in Russia insists that it is an instance of self-determination by the Crimea people.
The UN Security Council overwhelmingly supported a resolution that labels the Crimea referendum as illegal. Russia attempted to veto the resolution during the Security Council’s vote, but every other member nation of the Security Council favored the resolution. China, Russia’s closest ally on the Security Council, abstained from voting which left Russia as the sole proponent of the referendum.
After the Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovich, was ousted from office last month, Russian troops occupied Crimea, as it indeed possesses a largely ethnic-Russian population. Ihor Tenyukh, Ukraine’s acting defense minister, stated that the Ukraine and Russia had agreed on a truce in Crimea until March 21, during which “no measures will be taken against our military facilities.”
Amid the voting on the referendum, Russian troops landed on a strip of land in the southeast between Crimea and the mainland, which forced the Ukraine to also dispatch an aircraft with armed forces to stop the troops’ movement.
Meanwhile, approximately 50,000 people gathered in Moscow to protest against Russia’s intervention in the Ukraine, shouting, “The occupation of Crimea is Russia’s disgrace” and “Hands off Ukraine.”
For more information, please see:
Al Jazeera – Crimeans Vote in Breakaway Referendum – 16 March 2014
BBC News – Ukraine Crisis: Crimea Holds Secession Referendum – 16 March 2014
New York Times – Under Watch of Russian Troops, Crimea Votes on Secession – 16 March 2014
Reuters – Crimea to Vote on Joining Russia, Moscow Wields U.N. Veto – 16 March 2014