Tag Archives: Simferopol

Crimea military center shooting resembles sniper fire at Kiev’s Maidan

Special forces banish an unidentified man from the Photogrammtry Center of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in Kubanskaya Street in Simferopol. Unidentified people allegedly attempted to seize the center on March 18.

The shooting in the Crimean city of Simferopol bears a strong resemblance to the actions of snipers in central Kiev, as February violent clashes, local prosecution said. Russia considers the shooting that left two killed and two injured a “provocation.”

Speaking at the press-briefing the next day after the gunfire in Simferopol, Crimean prosecutor, Natalya Poklonskaya, shed very little light on what exactly happened outside the Ukrainian military topography and navigation center.

Stressing that the investigation is still on-going, she recounted how several unarmed officers of the Ministry of Defense of Russia had come to oversee progress on a joint matter regarding mapping. Their visit was earlier agreed with the commander of the Ukrainian armed forces and with Kiev.

Several of their colleagues, who at the time were outside the building of the compound, were fired upon.

“While cartographers were on the territory of the center, some self-defense unit representatives, protecting the center from the outside, came under fire,” Poklonskaya said.

Bullets came from a similar direction, but with varying trajectories, resulting in the death of two officers on both sides and a further two injuries.

Single shots were fired “simultaneously in the direction of Crimean self-defense units and Ukrainian servicemen.” Investigators have found bullets at the scene, but Poklonskaya was reluctant to reveal what kind of gun was used.

“Experts familiar with the crime scene believe the crimes perpetrated today bear a strong resemblance to the actions of snipers on the Maidan on February 18-21,” she summed up.

If this turns out to be the case, she said, it is possible that the attack was possibly aimed at “provoking clashes between the servicemen of Ukraine and Crimea.”

Crimean prosecutor, Natalya Poklonskaya

Now investigators are working on establishing a number of attackers and their exact location.

Earlier, the local interior ministry said in a press release that the shoots came from a house under construction opposite the center.

There has also been information that a sniper was detained. But later this information appeared to be bogus.

At the briefing, the prosecutor stressed that no one had been detained in connection with the shooting.

Despite very little details immediately available, shortly after news of the shooting broke, Western media was fast to point a finger at Russia, blaming the attack on “pro-Russian forces.” This view was shared in Kiev, which in an immediate reaction authorized Ukrainian troops stationed in Crimea to use firearms to “defend their lives.”

However, in Russia the shooting is widely seen as a provocation after Crimea and Sevastopol were accepted into the Russian Federation and the treaty was signed.

“What happened in Simferopol yesterday was beyond any doubt a provocation and its style suggests that the sniper there acted in the same manner as the ones on Maidan,” Russian Black Sea Fleet Commander Aleksandr Vitko. “Two people died as a result,” he added. “Nonetheless, the hotheads in the incumbent Ukrainian leadership said something about permission to shoot. I’d like to warn everyone in this connection and especially the men and officers of the Ukrainian Naval Forces, God forbid you to make a single shot, even from a slingshot. Matches are not toys, and I’d like to ask everyone to understand it in the very literal sense.”

The situation in Crimea was discussed in NATO between Russia’s Ambassador to the Alliance and its military officials.

“We have informed them that we see this incident as a provocation. The Russian troops were not involved in it; there was no storming of the Ukrainian military base as claimed by the authorities in Kiev. The incident is now being investigated, those guilty will not walk away from the responsibility,” Russian Ambassador to NATO, Aleksandr Grushko, was cited by Interfax as saying.

Crimean authorities have shared this stance, saying that the shooting in Simferopol was indeed a provocation aimed at spreading a “spirit of hatred and fear.”

“Such provocative tactics of putting in confrontation opposing parties was systematically employed at Maidan in Kiev. In a similar way provocateurs are trying to blow up the peace and harmony in our house,” Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov said.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian coup-appointed Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent a note of protest to Russia following the death of a Ukrainian soldier in Simferopol.

“Today he [the Russian charge d’affaires in Kiev, Andrey Vorobyev] was once again given a note against provoking armed incidents, violence and murder of Ukrainian soldiers,” the Ministry said.

A criminal case has been launched after the shooting and the charges are in line with Article 115 of the Ukrainian criminal code – murder. But there is still a lot that is unclear about the attack. It was even less known on the evening it took place.

This, however, was not an obstacle for a stream of conflicting reports, speculating that Russian forces were “storming the base.”

RT’s team was one of the first to arrive at the scene. As they came to the base, RT producer, Lida Vasilevskaya, reported the center was already surrounded by men in camouflage and the situation was “calm.”

She learned that the majority of the staff working at the military topography research center are women. The center’s area is rather small, and servicemen have only six machine guns and three Makarov guns to provide security.

It was confirmed to RT that the shooting did take place, but by that time it was unclear where the shooting had come from. This is yet to be investigated.

RT News.

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Ukrainian servicemen leave Navy base in Sevastopol as Crimea protesters storm HQ

Men, believed to be Ukrainian servicemen, with belongings walk past armed men, while leaving the territory of the naval headquarters in Sevastopol, March 19, 2014.

At least 30 Ukrainian naval personnel have left the Ukrainian Navy headquarters in the city of Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula after demonstrators stormed the premises early in the morning.

Crimean self-defense troops have made a passage to let Ukrainian servicemen leave the territory of the HQ. Reports on the number of people to have left vary with ITAR-TASS saying around 50 personnel are gone, Rear Admiral Sergey Gaiduk of the Ukrainian Navy among them.

However, Kryminform says Gaiduk has been detained by the Sevastopol prosecutor’s office while RIA Novosti reports that his whereabouts is unknown.

People began protesting outside the HQ at 08:00 GMT. Several thousand participants cut fences, stormed inside and changed the flags on the flagpoles. Some of the participants of the rally were singing the Russian national anthem.

There were no immediate reports of violence.

A pro-Russian supporter takes down a Ukrainian flag after breaking into the territory of the naval headquarters in Sevastopol, March 19, 2014.

The protesters hoisted Russian and St. Andrew’s flags, the latter being the Russian Navy Ensign, according to Interfax.

There was an immediate alert on the territory of the HQ and the Ukrainian seamen lined up in front of the protesters, reports Interfax. The line was broken by cars belonging to activists that entered the territory.

The protesters were calling upon the Ukrainian servicemen to leave the HQ. An ambulance was also called as a precaution.

Ukrainian servicemen pass by armed men while leaving the territory of the naval headquarters in Sevastopol, March 19, 2014.

UkrStream.TV cameras which recorded the situation near the headquarters of the Ukrainian Navy show no violence on the precinct.

After the protesters entered the navy HQ territory, they began holding talks with the representatives of the Ukrainian Navy.

According to Sevastopol news websites, the Commander of the Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, Vice-Admiral Aleksandr Vitko, later arrived to negotiate with Gaiduk.

Ukrainian officers abandon Sevastopol naval base

Ukrainian officers abandon Sevastopol naval base

After just 15 minutes of negotiations, Vitko left the grounds and refused to comment on the results of the talks with Gaiduk.

Before leaving, both rear admirals held talks with Admiral Yury Ilyin, the new Army chief and Admiral Viktor Maksimov, the head of Ukraine’s Naval Forces.

Earlier, there were reports of possible provocations. Some unidentified men tried to enter the building. However, the attempts failed due to Self-Defense Unit guards and Crimean Cossacks.

A man holds a Russian flag on the roof of the naval headquarters in Sevastopol, March 19, 2014.

Ukrainian armed forces commander Mikhail Kucin has informed his Russian counterpart Valery Gerasimov that he has authorized the use of military force by troops stationed in Crimea, according to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.

In a phone conversation with Gerasimov, Kucin has emphasized de-escalation and a political solution to the crisis, rather than a violent one. The green light to use force has been given by him in the aftermath of the events in Simferopol, which have led to the death of one Ukrainian soldier and another from the Crimean Self-Defense Forces, while two others were injured.

On March 16, Crimea held a referendum in which over 96 percent of its citizens voted to join Russia. Two days later, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status, became federal objects of the Russian Federation.

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Crimea protesters storm Ukrainian Navy base in Sevastopol

A Ukrainian serviceman (C) passes by pro-Russian supporters and members of self-defence units as he leaves the naval headquarters in Sevastopol, March 19, 2014.

Demonstrators have stormed the Ukrainian Navy HQ in the town of Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula.

The protesters hoisted Russian and St. Andrew’s flags, the latter being the Russian Navy Ensign, according to Interfax.

People have been protesting outside the HQ since 08:00GMT. Several thousand participants have cut the fences, stormed inside and changed the flags on the flagpoles. There have been no immediate reports of violence.

The participants of the rally are currently holding talks with the representatives of the Ukrainian Navy. Russian forces are not party to the negotiations.

There was an immediate alert on the territory of the HQ and the Ukrainian servicemen lined up in front of the protesters, reports Interfax. The line was broken by cars belonging to activists that entered the territory.

The protesters are calling upon the Ukrainian servicemen to leave the HQ. An ambulance has been called as a precaution.

A Ukrainian naval officer (C) passes by armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, as he leaves the naval headquarters in Sevastopol, March 19, 2014.

 

Some of the participants of the rally have been singing the Russian anthem.

UkrStream.TV cameras which are currently recording the situation near the headquarters of the Ukrainian Navy show no violence on the precinct.

According to Sevastopol news websites, the Commander of the Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, Vice-Admiral Aleksandr Vitko, has just arrived in the HQ of the Ukrainian Navy and negotiations are underway.

Vitko arrived at the HQ 30 minutes ago and is currently holding talks with Rear Admiral Sergey Gaiduk of the Ukrainian Navy.

After the negotiations, Vitko left the Ukrainian Navy HQ and refused to comment on the results of the talks with Gaiduk.

According to Reuters, nearly a dozen unarmed Ukrainian servicemen have walked out of HQ.

Earlier, there were reports of possible provocations. Some unidentified men tried to enter the building. However, the attempts failed due to Self-Defense Unit guards and Crimean Cossacks.

Ukrainian armed forces commander Mikhail Kucin, has informed his Russian counterpart Valery Gerasimov that he has authorized the use of military force by troops stationed in Crimea, according to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.

In a phone conversation with Gerasimov, Kucin has emphasized de-escalation and a political solution to the crisis, rather than a violent one. The green light to use force has been given by him in the aftermath of the events in Simferopol, which have led to the death of one Ukrainian soldier and another from the Crimean Self-Defense Forces, while two others were injured.

On March 16 Crimea held a referendum where over 97 percent of its citizens voted for joining Russia. Two days later, the Autonomous republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status, became federal objects of the Russian Federation.

 

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2 killed, 2 injured in shooting near Crimea military research center, ‘sniper detained’

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Two people – a self-defense member and a Ukrainian soldier – were killed and two others wounded after snipers opened fire from a partially inhabited building near a military research center in Simferopol. One sniper was detained, another is on the run.

As RT producer Lida Vasilevskaya arrived on the scene, the perimeter of the Ukrainian military topography and navigation center had already been surrounded by men in camouflage and the situation was “calm.”

The local Interior Ministry said in a press release that shooting came from a house under construction opposite the center and targeted Crimean self-defense units as well the military center itself.

“Earlier today self-defense units were informed that a group of armed men had been discovered in a partially inhabited building,” the press release said. “As the self-defense were taking measures to check, they came under fire, presumably from a sniper rifle,” police said adding that shooting came “in two directions from one spot.”

One self-defense unit member was killed and another wounded, police said. Also, one Ukrainian soldier who was guarding the military research center, was killed, and another wounded.

Earlier, Ukrainian servicemen told RT that last night unknown groups tried to break into several military bases, but self-defense units managed to prevent them from entering.

“Guys from self-defense told me today that they were afraid of provocations,” Lida Vasilevskaya tweeted.

Crimean Interior Ministry did not rule out a provocation aimed at complicating the situation in the city after Crimea and Sevastopol were accepted into the Russian Federation.

Despite lack of verified details of what exactly happened in Simferopol, and a stream of conflicting reports, Kiev immediately claimed “Russian soldiers started shooting at Ukrainian servicemen”.

“This is a war crime without any statute of limitations,” coup-appointed Prime-Minister Yatsenyuk told a meeting at the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.

In another immediate reaction to the accident, acting President Aleksandr Turchinov authorized Ukrainian troops stationed in Crimea to use firearms to “defend their lives.”

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Crimean Officials Says All Ukrainian Military Units in Crimea Will Be Disarmed and Disbanded

MOSCOW — Crimea’s parliamentary speaker said on Monday Ukrainian military units in the region would be disbanded although personnel would be able to remain on the Black Sea peninsula, Russian news agency Interfax reported on Monday.

“We will of course nationalize all (units) on the territory (of Crimea),” Interfax cited Vladimir Konstantinov as saying in the city of Simferopol after the southern Ukrainian region voted in a referendum to join Russia.

Reuters

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About 95% of Crimeans in referendum voted to join Russia – preliminary results

People celebrate as they wait for the announcement of preliminary results of today’s referendum on Lenin Square in the Crimean capital of Simferopol March 16, 2014

Around 95 percent of voters in the Crimean referendum have answered ‘yes’ to the autonomous republic joining Russia and less than 5 percent of the vote participants want the region to remain part of Ukraine, according to preliminary results.

With around 50 percent of the votes already counted, preliminary result show that 95.5 percent of voters said ‘yes’ to the reunion of the republic with Russia as a constituent unit of the Russian Federation. In Sevastopol, the number of those who voted ‘yes’ stands at 93 percent, according to the head of the Sevastopol commission, Valery Medvedev.

The preliminary results of the popular vote were announced during a meeting in the center of Sevastopol, the city that hosts Russia’s Black Sea fleet.

The overall voter turnout in the referendum on the status of Crimea is 81,37%, according to the head of the Crimean parliament’s commission on the referendum, Mikhail Malyshev.

Over a half of the Tatars living in the port city took part in the referendum, with the majority of them voting in favor of joining Russia, reports Itar-Tass citing a representative of the Tatar community Lenur Usmanov.

About 40% of Crimean Tatars went to polling stations on Sunday, the republic’s prime minister Sergey Aksyonov said.

In Simferopol, the capital of the republic, at least 15,000 have gathered to celebrate the referendum in central Lenin square and people reportedly keep arriving. Demonstrators, waving Russian and Crimean flags, were watching a live concert while waiting for the announcement of preliminary results of the voting.

International observers are planning to present their final declaration on the Crimean referendum on March 17, the head of the monitors’ commission, Polish MP Mateush Piskorski told journalists. He added that the voting was held in line with international norms and standards.

Next week, Crimea will officially introduce the ruble as a second official currency along with Ukrainian hryvna, Aksyonov told Interfax. In his words, the dual currency will be in place for about six months.

Overall, the republic’s integration into Russia will take up to a year, the Prime Minister said, adding that it could be done faster. However, they want to maintain relations with “economic entities, including Ukraine,” rather than burn bridges.

Moscow is closely monitoring the vote count in Crimea, said Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Karasin.

“The results of the referendum will be considered once they are drawn up,” he told Itar-Tass.

The decision to hold a referendum was made after the bloody uprising in Kiev which ousted President Vladimir Yanukovich from power. Crimea – which is home to an ethnic Russian majority population – refused to recognize the coup-appointed government as legitimate. Crimeans feared that the new leadership would not represent their interests and respect rights. Crimeans were particularly unhappy over parliament’s decision to revoke the law allowing using minority languages – including Russian – as official along with the Ukrainian tongue. Crimeans staged mass anti-Maidan protests and asked Russia to protect them.

Officials count votes of today’s referendum in the Crimean capital of Simferopol March 16, 2014

 RT News.

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Kerry to Russia: U.S. Will Not Accept Outcome of Crimea Referendum

Pro-Russian protesters hold a Russian, Crimean and Soviet flags during their rally at Lenin Square in Simferopol, Ukraine, March 16, 2014

Pro-Russian protesters hold a Russian, Crimean and Soviet flags during their rally at Lenin Square in Simferopol, Ukraine, March 16, 2014

The United States told Russia on Sunday that it would not accept the results of Crimea’s referendum on seceding from Ukraine and it continued to urge a political resolution on Moscow, a senior U.S. State Department official said.

The official, describing a telephone conversation between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday morning, the day of the Crimean vote, urged Russia to back constitutional reform in Ukraine that would protect the rights of minorities such as Crimea’s Russian-speaking population.

Kerry also said Russia must pull back its forces to their bases and raised strong concerns about Russian military activities in Ukraine’s Kherson Oblast on Saturday, as well as continuing provocations in eastern Ukraine, the official said.

In their Sunday phone conversation, Kerry appeared to be trying to sketch out a way forward for Crimea that would keep it in Ukraine, but it remained unclear if Russian President Vladimir Putin was interested in such an outcome or simply wants to cement Russian control of the region.

— Reuters

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Breaking news – About 93% of Crimeans who took part in referendum voted to join Russia – exit poll

About 93% of voters in the Crimean referendum have answered ‘yes’ to the autonomous republic joining the Russian federation and only 7% of the vote participants want the region to remain part of Ukraine, according to first exit polls.

Polling stations closed in Crimea after the referendum where residents were to decide on the future status of the region.

“The results of the referendum exit polls in Crimea and Sevastopol: 93 % voted for the reunion of Crimea with Russia as a constituent unit of the Russian Federation. 7% voted for the restoration of the 1992 constitution of the Republic of Crimea and Crimea’s status as part of Ukraine,” the Crimean republican institute for political and social researches said in a statement as cited by RIA Novosti.

A child holds the ballot of his mother during the referendum on the status of Ukraine's Crimea region at a polling station in Bakhchisaray March 16, 2014

A child holds the ballot of his mother during the referendum on the status of Ukraine’s Crimea region at a polling station in Bakhchisaray March 16, 2014

In Sevastopol, about 85% of voters cast their ballots by 1600 GMT, two hours before the polling stations closed, according to the chair of the city’s election commission Valery Medvedev.

The overall voter turnout in Crimea constituted over 80%, reports local news agency Kryminnform. In Sevastopol, about 85% of voters cast their ballots by 1600 GMT, two hours before the polling stations closed, according to the chair of the city’s election commission Valery Medvedev.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

Over a half of the Tatars living in the port city took part in the referendum, with the majority of them voting in favor of joining Russia, reports Itar-Tass citing a representative of the Tatar community Lenur Usmanov.

The preliminary results of the popular vote in Sevastopol are expected to be announced at 2030 GMT during a meeting in the center of the city that hosts Russia’s Black Sea fleet.

In Simferopol, the capital of the republic, at least 15,000 have gathered to celebrate the referendum in central Lenin square and people reportedly keep arriving. Demonstrators, waving Russian and Crimean flags, are watching a live concert and awaiting the announcement of preliminary results of the voting.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

International observers are planning to present their final declaration on the Crimean referendum on March 17, the head of the monitors’ commission, Polish MP Mateush Piskorski told journalists. He added that the voting was held in line with international norms and standards.

Next week, Crimea will officially introduce the ruble as a second official currency along with Ukrainian hryvna, Aksyonov told Interfax. In his words, the dual currency will be in place for about six months.

Overall, the republic’s integration into Russia will take up to a year, the Prime Minister said, adding that it could be done faster. However, they want to maintain relations with “economic entities, including Ukraine,” rather than burn bridges.

Moscow is closely monitoring the vote count in Crimea, said Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Karasin.

The results of the referendum will be considered once they are drawn up,” he told Itar-Tass.

The decision to hold a referendum was made after the bloody uprising in Kiev which ousted President Vladimir Yanukovich from power. Crimea – which is home to an ethnic Russian majority population – refused to recognize the coup-appointed government as legitimate. Crimeans feared that the new leadership would not represent their interests and respect rights. Crimeans were particularly unhappy over parliament’s decision to revoke the law allowing using minority languages – including Russian – as official along with the Ukrainian tongue. Crimeans staged mass anti-Maidan protests and asked Russia to protect them.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

Breaking news – 95% of Crimeans in referendum voted to join Russia – preliminary results

 

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​Crimean ‘referendum at gunpoint’ is a myth – intl observers

A woman is reflected in a mirror as she casts her ballot during voting in a referendum at a polling station in Simferopol March 16, 2014.

The referendum on Crimea’s status is going peacefully, with record-breaking turnout, international observers report. Most of them told RT that the referendum is credible and the vote of the Crimean people should be respected.

No violations at the Crimea referendum have been reported by the international observers currently present in the republic.

“It’s all quiet so far,” Mateus Psikorkski, the leader of the European observers’ mission and Polish MP told Itar-Tass. “Our observers have not registered any violations of voting rules.”

Another observer, Ewald Stadler, member of the European Parliament, dispelled the “referendum at gunpoint” myth, by saying he felt people were free to make their choice.

“I haven’t seen anything even resembling pressure,” he said. “People themselves want to have their say.”

Many were impressed by the turnout, which appeared to be so high as to have people stand in lines to get to the ballot box in the morning. The turnout for the referendum in Crimea at 17.00 local time (15.00 GMT) was 70 per cent, the referendum’s website said.

“The lines are very long, the turnout is big indeed,” a member of the international observer mission, Bulgarian parliament member Pavel Chernev, said. “Organization and procedures are 100 percent in line with the European standards,” he added.

135 international observers have arrived from 23 countries, including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia and Poland, Crimean authorities said. Among those monitoring the referendum are members of the EU and national European parliaments, international law experts and human rights activists.

‘The referendum is legitimate’

Hours before the referendum started, RT managed to speak to some of those who decided to see for themselves, who’s ballots were going to be cast.

Quite contrary to the mainstream official approach taken by the EU and the US, most of them said they believed the referendum in Crimea was legitimate.

“The US and also the EU, they only respect international law, if it’s in favor of their opinion,” Johann Gudenus, member of the city parliament of Vienna, said. “Our opinion is – if people want to decide their future, they should have the right to do that and the international community should respect that. There is a goal of people in Crimea to vote about their own future. Of course, Kiev is not happy about that, but still they have to accept and to respect the vote of people in Crimea”.

Johannes Hübner, an Austrian MP said he felt he had to come to Crimea to get the real picture of what was happening on the peninsula.

“The view we get from the American and European media is very distorted,” he said. “You get no objective information. So we decided to come here to have a look at what’s really going on and see if this referendum is credible”.

Aymeric Chauprade political scientist and geopolitician from France believes the referendum is justified by Russian and Ukrainian history.

“Yes, I think the referendum is legitimate,” he said. “We are talking about long-term history. We are talking about the Russian people, about the territories of the former USSR with artificial borders. So, I think it’s a legitimate referendum that will give opportunity for this Russian population’s reunification with Russia”.

Tatjana Ždanoka, European parliament MP, representing Latvia, says the fact that the EU and the US refuse to see the referendum as legitimate can only be explained by double standard applied by Western leaders to the situation.

“The European parliament’s resolution demands that Crimeans comply with the Ukrainian constitution and says that the referendum is against that constitution. But that’s the same as to demand Kosovars to comply with the constitution of the former Yugoslavia, which naturally never happened. Double standards are everywhere in global politics. We know it from history. We see it now”.

People line up to receive their ballots during the referendum on the status of Ukraine’s Crimea region at a polling station in Simferopol March 16, 2014.

The foreign affairs editor from Chronicles Magazine, Srdja Trifkovic, who is also an observer at the Crimean referendum has told RT that he drove from Simferopol to Yalta on Saturday and back and he “didn’t see a single barrel (of a gun) unless you count two speed traps, one on the way out and one on the way back where policemen had guns.”

“The presence of troops on the streets is virtually non-existent and the only thing resembling any such thing is the unarmed middle-aged Cossacks who are positioned outside the parliament building in Simferopol. But if you look at the people both at the voting stations and in the streets, like on Yalta’s sea front yesterday afternoon, frankly I think you would feel more tense in south Chicago or in New York’s Harlem than anywhere round here,” he said.

Trifkovic added that in regard to referendums the western powers function on the basis of situational morality and “not on any firm principle.”

“In 1991 Croatia and Slovenia held illegal referenda to secede from Yugoslavia and by the end of that year the European Union recognized them as independent states. In February of 1992 Bosnia Herzegovina held a referendum in violation of its own constitution and yet in April of that year the US rushed to recognize Bosnia, which still remains an incoherent semi state as we know. And the succession of Kosovo from Serbia has been enthusiastically supported by the United States and its west European partners. And the right to self-determination was upheld ahead of the right of a state to territorial integrity. Well, what is source for the Kosovan goose will certainly prove to be the sauce for the Crimean gander but the United States and Brussels are yet to come to terms with it.”

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Ukraine: Crimea poll opens with landslide vote expected for union with Russia | World news

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A crucial referendum on either becoming an integral part of Russia or staying within Ukraine on conditions of wide autonomy has kicked off in the Republic of Crimea despite international condemnation and pressure from Kiev.

The polling stations of 27 regional Crimea election commissions are going to be open all day long, starting from 8am till 8pm (0600 GMT- 1800 GMT). Up to 1.5 million – this is the number of ballots printed for the referendum – Crimea citizens are expected come to cast their votes in favor of independence or against it.

Some 10,000 members of the Crimean military recently formed from self-defense squads, and over 5,000 police officers are ensuring the referendum goes smoothly.

Crimean authorities have reported about 135 registered international observers have arrived from 23 countries, including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia and Poland. Members of the EU and national European parliaments, international law experts and human rights activists together with 1,240 local observers are monitoring the voting at ballot stations. Mass media in the peninsula is represented by 623 accredited journalists from 169 international media outlets.

Election commission officials take part in the preparations for a referendum at the polling station in the Crimean town of Simferopol

Election commission officials take part in the preparations for a referendum at the polling station in the Crimean town of Simferopol

After a power grab took place in capital Kiev on February 22, Ukraine’s legitimate President Viktor Yanukovich had to flee from his residence fearing for his life. The parliament of the Crimea autonomy, where about 60 percent of the residents are ethnic Russians, did not acknowledge the coup-imposed government in Kiev as legitimate and took the decision to dissociate from Ukraine.

On March 11 the parliament of the Crimea autonomy adopted a declaration of independence from Ukraine, opening way for the referendum on March 16.

The referendum in Crimea was preceded with numerous provocations on the peninsula and threats coming from the capital Kiev and western politicians.

Since the moment Crimea set date for independence referendum, official Kiev has been claiming that all actions of the Crimea authorities are illegitimate, disregarding the international practice of referendums.

On Saturday Ukraine’s parliament made the last desperate gesture to prevent the referendum, voting to dismiss the Crimean Supreme Council. Though self-defense guards have done their best to prevent provocations in the peninsula, they took place anyway.

On the eve of the vote, Crimean self-defense forces prevented an attempt to damage a gas pipeline at the Arabat Spit. The people trying to damage the pipeline introduced themselves as officers of the Border Guard, the Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov said.

In the Crimean capital of Simferopol an undisclosed number of people under the guise of policemen were detained for purposefully damaging civilians’ passports or taking away their documents to make it impossible for the citizens to vote in the absence of ID.

The same fraud has been also reported in the small town of Saky in western Crimea.

Nationalists from western Ukraine and Kiev, such as members of ultra-nationalist Right Sector group, made multiple attempts to sneak into the autonomous region to stage protests against Crimean independence.

Sometimes people shouting Nazi slogans joined peaceful demonstrations in Crimea’s cities, calling upon people not to vote in the referendum.

Despite that, mass pro-Russian protests have been held for the past weeks in the eastern regions of Ukraine and Crimea. The demonstrators were protesting against the new government, storming local government offices and replacing Ukrainian flags with the Russian tricolor. People in Simferopol, Odessa, Kharkov, Donetsk, Lugansk, Melitopol, Yevpatoria, Kerch and Mariupol – all took to the streets shouting slogans in support of the Crimean referendum.

According to a GfK poll of 600 residents taken Thursday and Friday ahead of the referendum, 70 percent said they will vote to become part of Russia, while 11 percent said they will vote to restore Crimea’s status as part of Ukraine.

 

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