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United States Rejects Crimea Referendum, Calls It Destabilizing

Published on 17 March 2014

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by Merle David Kellerhals Jr.


Washington, D.C.

U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State

The United States rejects the March 16 Crimean secession referendum and calls Russia’s military actions in the Ukrainian region “dangerous and destabilizing.”

The White House called on the international community to condemn Russia's actions and to impose costs upon it for those actions while standing together in support of the Ukrainian people and Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Voters in the Crimean Peninsula voted on whether to demand greater autonomy from Ukraine under the 1992 Crimean Constitution, or secede from Ukraine and seek to join the Russian Federation. The United States and European Union, in the weeks leading up to the referendum, called the vote illegal under international law and a violation of the Ukrainian Constitution.

“The United States has steadfastly supported the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ukraine since it declared its independence in 1991, and we reject the ‘referendum’ that took place today in the Crimean region of Ukraine,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a prepared statement released in Washington March 16.

“This referendum is contrary to Ukraine’s constitution, and the international community will not recognize the results of a poll administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention that violates international law,” Carney said.

President Obama spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin March 16 and underscored there is still a diplomatic way to resolve the crisis that also addresses the interests of Russia and the Ukrainian people, according to a White House statement.

Crimean secession was expected to receive overwhelming support in the region with a population of 2 million people that is largely Russian. The Crimea is a southeastern peninsula that connects Ukraine with Russia and borders the Black Sea. Sevastopol, Crimea’s key port, is the home of the Russian Black Sea fleet under a mutual agreement between Ukraine and Russia.

Carney’s statement also said the United States and its allies made it clear that military intervention and violation of international law will bring increasing costs for Russia “not only due to measures imposed by the United States and our allies but also as a direct result of Russia’s own destabilizing actions.”

The referendum came two weeks after Russian-led combat forces, wearing ski masks and uniforms without markings or insignia, seized control of Crimea. On March 15, Russian military forces seized control of a natural gas plant inside Ukraine at Kherson Oblast that supplies the Crimean Peninsula, according to Ukraine’s border guard agency.

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov earlier March 16 and restated the United States’ position. Kerry “made clear that this crisis can only be resolved politically and that as Ukrainians take the necessary political measures going forward, Russia must reciprocate by pulling forces back to base, and addressing the tensions and concerns about military engagement,” a senior State Department official said.

The 15-nation U.N. Security Council voted on March 15 on a U.S.-backed resolution that declared the referendum illegal. Thirteen of the 15 nations voted in favor of the resolution, China abstained and Russia, one of the five permanent council members, vetoed the resolution. The resolution urged all the parties to pursue a peaceful resolution to the dispute over Crimea through direct political talks. Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected that approach, saying he did not recognize the new Ukrainian government.

The White House has announced Vice President Joseph Biden will travel to Poland and Lithuania March 17-19 to meet with regional leaders and discuss the events in Ukraine and priority security issues. “In Warsaw and Vilnius, the vice president will meet with the president and prime minister of Poland and the presidents of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania,” according to the White House.

Crimean voters were given two choices in the referendum: become a separate region and reunite with Russia, or become a separate region with autonomous powers based on the 1992 Crimean Constitution. Remaining part of Ukraine was not an option. The 1992 Crimean Constitution established Crimea as an independent state linked to but not part of Ukraine.


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Posted 2014-03-17 08:04:00