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March 6th, 2014
09:32 AM ET

Crimea Lawmakers Vote to Leave Ukraine for Russia, Set Referendum Date

Lawmakers in Ukraine's Crimea region voted Thursday in favor of leaving Ukraine for Russia, which already has the Black Sea peninsula under de facto control, and set a referendum on the move for 10 days' time.

Citizens of Crimea will face a simple choice: Stay in Ukraine or join Russia.

It's not clear how easily the region could split off if the referendum endorses the move.

The autonomous region has a 60% ethnic Russian population, having been part of Russia until it was ceded to Ukraine in 1954 by the Soviet Union.

But not everyone may be as keen on coming under Moscow's direct influence. A quarter of the peninsula's population is Ukrainian and about 12% Crimean Tatars, a predominantly Muslim group.

The parliament in Crimea installed a new, pro-Moscow government late last month. It had previously said a referendum would be held at the end of March on greater autonomy for Crimea.

Citizens will now be asked on March 16 if they want an autonomous republic of Crimea within Russia; or within Ukraine.

Michael Crawford, a former long-serving British ambassador in Eastern Europe, cautioned that whatever the result, it may be meaningless.

"It does not follow that if Crimea votes to join Russia, that anyone will accept it," he said.

"For Russia to start cherry-picking bits of the former Soviet Union, cranking up referenda in Kazakhstan or Latvia or wherever you like, to try to carve off bits, would be against international law, and it would be something Vladimir Putin has said he doesn't want to do."

Putin, the Russian President, has insisted Russia has the right to use military force in Ukraine if necessary to protect ethnic Russians.

But he has denied claims by Ukrainian officials and Western diplomats that Russia has sent thousands of troops into the region in recent days. Russia says the heavily armed troops, in uniforms without insignia, are local "self-defense" forces.

The deputy speaker of the Crimean parliament, Rustam Temirgaliev, said Thursday at a news conference that the only forces allowed in Crimea are the Russian military - and that all others will be considered to be occupying forces.

He said he'd advised Ukrainian troops to swear allegiance to the Russian army or leave Crimea under safe passage.

In the regional capital, Simferopol, residents have demonstrated this week against the interim government in Kiev, with crowds chanting in favor of Putin.

For more, visit CNN.com. 

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Filed under: Crimea • Ukraine
March 4th, 2014
09:33 AM ET

Putin: Russia Has the Right 'To Take All Measures'

Russia does not want to take over Ukraine's Crimea region, President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday, but he showed no signs of backing down on Russia's presence in the region despite Western pressure.

Putin labeled what had happened in Ukraine an "anti-constitutional coup and armed seizure of power," and he insisted that ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is the legitimate leader of the nation.

He called the parliament in Ukraine "partly legitimate" but said the country's acting President is not.

At the same time, he said he saw no political future for Yanukovych, who resurfaced in Russia on Friday after fleeing Kiev 10 days ago.

Appearing at ease as he addressed a handful of reporters in Moscow, Putin said only the people of Crimea, a Russian-dominated autonomous region, could determine their future.

Putin said that there was no need for the use of the military so far, with not a shot fired, and that any use of military force would be the last resort.

But if Russian-speaking citizens in the east of Ukraine ask for Russia's help, Russia has the right "to take all measures to protect the rights of those people," he said. He repeatedly cast any such intervention as a humanitarian mission.

Military action, he said, would be "completely legitimate" because it was at the request of Yanukovych and in line with Russia's duty to protect people with historic ties to Russia, both cultural and economic.

"Firstly, we have a request of the legitimate President Yanukovych to protect the welfare of the local population. We have neo-Nazis and Nazis and anti-Semites in parts of Ukraine, including Kiev," Putin said.

Russian forces have not fired a shot since they crossed into Crimea, he said.

Putin pointed out what he sees as a double standard by leaders in the United States and other Western countries, saying that the U.S. acted in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya without a U.N. resolution authorizing that action or by "twisting" U.N. resolutions.

And he warned that any damage from sanctions imposed by the West against Russia over its actions in Ukraine would be multilateral.

See more at CNN.com

Posted by ,
Filed under: Putin • Russia • Ukraine
February 24th, 2014
12:19 PM ET

Up to Speed: Uncertainty Reigns in a Divided Ukraine

The turmoil in Ukraine has swept aside its president, brought about the release a prominent opposition leader and raised fears the country could break apart.

After the bloodshed in the streets of Kiev last week - the deadliest violence Ukraine has suffered since its independence 22 years ago - the political twists and turns came thick and fast over the weekend.

As a new week begins, uncertainty has taken a hold in the divided nation as Ukraine tries to reshape its political landscape.

An arrest warrant has been issued for ousted President Viktor Yanukovych over the killings of civilians, a government official said Monday. But officials don't know where he is.

Click here for what you need to know to get caught up.

February 21st, 2014
06:04 AM ET

Olympics Impacted by Ukraine Violence

The violence in Ukraine is resonating all the way to Sochi –  just a few hundred miles away – where some Ukrainian athletes have pulled out of the Olympic competition.

 

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Filed under: Ukraine
February 19th, 2014
09:44 AM ET

After 25 Die, Protesters Prepare to Stand Their Ground in Ukraine

They've given up their ground before - voluntarily, as a political concession. But that seems to be over.

After the deaths of 25 people in clashes a day earlier, Ukrainian protesters are prepared to stand and fight again Wednesday.

Police want to clear them out of central Kiev. Some of them died trying to stay put Tuesday - using projectiles and burning barricades to keep security forces at bay at Kiev's Maidan, or Independence Square.

It was the deadliest day in the months-long standoff between the government and opposition leaders.

Thousands of demonstrators have packed Independence Square since November, when President Viktor Yanukovych reversed a decision to sign a trade deal with the European Union and instead turned toward Russia.

The unrest intensified after an anti-protest law went into effect. Throngs of demonstrators took to the streets to protest the law.

Police and protesters were among Tuesday's dead. A journalist and a government employee died, too.

More than 240 others were hospitalized, Ukraine's health ministry said.

Overnight, demonstrators stocked up, passing stones hand to hand, filling Molotov cocktails and stoking flaming barricades with wood and tires.

They prepared a makeshift compressed-air cannon to catapult the projectiles into police ranks.

Hundreds of others came out to give moral support to those holding the square and to add their numbers to the throng wanting to keep the opposition movement alive.

Corporate lawyer and iReporter Volodymyr Solohub was one of them. Whenever police threaten to clear the Maidan he goes there.

Tuesday, he watched as protesters rushed injured people from the front lines to medics.

"Some of them had broken hands, and blood was flowing down their faces," he said Wednesday.

Barrages of stun grenades shattered the air around him through the night.

"When it goes off, the whole area vibrates," he said. But the barricades held, and it made him happy.

When the sun rose Wednesday, smoke was still rising from them into the sky.

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