Crimea will vote on whether to join Russia

Military vehicles, believed to be properties of Russia, drive near a Ukrainian military base in the village of Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, March 6, 2014. (Reuters)

Pro-Moscow authorities in Crimea on Thursday asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to examine a request for their region to join the Russian Federation, which will be put to a referendum on March 16, Agence France-Presse reported.

“The parliament of Crimea has adopted a motion for Crimea to join Russia. It has asked the Russian president and parliament to consider this request,” a member of the parliament’s leadership, Grigoriy Ioffe, told AFP.

The parliament in Crimea, which enjoys a degree of autonomy under current Ukrainian law, voted 78 with eight abstentions in favor of holding the referendum, the Associated Press reported.

Local voters will also be given the choice of deciding to remain part of Ukraine, but with enhanced local powers.

There was no immediate response from the Ukrainian central government to the vote. On Wednesday, Ukraine’s prime minister told The Associated Press that Crimea would remain part of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, European Union leaders were set to warn but not sanction Russia on Thursday over its military intervention in Ukraine after Moscow snubbed Western diplomatic efforts to persuade it to pull forces in Crimea back to their bases.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov refused to meet his new Ukrainian counterpart or to launch a “contact group” to seek a solution to the crisis at talks in Paris on Wednesday despite arm-twisting by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European colleagues. The two men will meet again in Rome on Thursday.

Tension remained high in Ukraine’s southern Crimea region, where a senior United Nations envoy was surrounded by a pro-Russian crowd, threatened and forced to get back on his plane and leave the country.

An emergency EU summit in Brussels is unlikely to adopt more than symbolic measures against Russia, Europe’s biggest gas supplier, because neither industrial powerhouse Germany nor financial center Britain is keen to start down that road.

The United States has said it is ready to impose sanctions such as visa bans, asset freezes on individual Russian officials and restrictions on business ties within days rather than weeks.

Russia’s rouble currency weakened further on Thursday despite central bank intervention due to what analysts at VTB Capital called the political risk premium.


(With AFP, Reuters and Associated Press)

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:43 - GMT 06:43
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