In what is being called an “overwhelming” number of citizens in favor, Crimea has embraced Russian annexation despite the United States’ opposition to such a move. U.S. officials declared the Russian-sponsored referendum as a “violation” of international law, as well as Ukraine’s constitution.
The exact figures are set to be released Monday, but officials are saying over 80 percent of Crimea’s population showed up to the polls, and an overwhelming 95 percent thus far have voted to reunite with Russia. According to international observers, no election laws were violated, and there was no interference at the polls.
Still, Obama says the vote came under “threats of violence and intimidation” on the part of Russia and that the results will “never” be recognized by the United States or the international community. Obama’s third phone call with Putin since the crisis began was nothing less than tense, with Obama using harsh words, threatening sanctions and “additional costs” on Russia.
The vote came quickly after a truce was reached between Ukraine and Russia in the region of Crimea. The Ministry of Defense in Crimea says the truce will last until March 21. Russia’s parliament is set to vote on that day regarding what exactly to do with Crimea’s secession. There has been no confirmation from Russia on the truce.
Putin told Obama that the referendum in Crimea was “fully consistent” with international law and U.N. charter. Putin’s defense against the international community is that the will of the people and their right to self-determination has been realized in this vote.
Before the referendum took place, Ukraine’s interim government suggested ways to pacify Crimeans, providing them further autonomy and relaxing tax laws for the region. Such a move, though, would had to have been voted upon by all of Ukraine, and observers say such a sweetheart deal to Crimea would only draw animosity from the rest of Ukraine.
Up until this point, Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry had urged Russia to come to a diplomatic solution over the crisis. With its ups and downs over the past few weeks, Russia has claimed victory in a region where the majority of citizens speak Russian and are of Russian heritage.
All reports coming out of Crimea show people in the region excited over the referendum, saying they want to fully embrace Russia and rejoin their homeland. A number of voters expressed optimism and joy over the results.
“I am so happy. Today is really a holiday,” says Ludmila, a Crimean citizen who was interviewed after leaving the polling place. She continued to say she had never “seen so many people smiling.”
What started out as a movement for more democratic rights and a closer bond with Europe ended up splitting apart a country which has historically been tossed back and forth between East and West. Ukrainians who marched onto the streets of Kiev and died for their fellow countrymen now watch bitterly as a portion of their country finds its own way through the democratic movements of popular uprisings.
So far Crimea’s choice to align themselves with the east has turned out peaceful. Less can be said about Ukraine’s struggle to align themselves with the west.