The United States and Russia failed on Friday to resolve a crisis sparked by Crimea's weekend referendum on joining Kremlin rule. Here’s all you wanted to know about the crucial vote.
What will Crimeans be voting for on Sunday?
Ballot papers (as per the Crimean parliament website) will ask two questions, both in Russian. The first: "Are you in favour of the reunification of Crimea with Russia as a part of the Russian Federation?" and the second: "Are you in favour of restoring the 1992 Constitution and the status of Crimea as a part of Ukraine?" Even though the second question seems to offer an option to stay with Crimea, it doesn’t. The 1992 constitution came in right after Ukraine’s independence from the USSR and gave Crimea the option to decide which path to choose including joining Russia. This constitution was rejected and replaced by another one by the Ukrainians in 1995.
Is Crimea "occupied" by Russia?
Russia claims it has no troops in Crimea beyond its Black Sea fleet naval base. But "unidentified pro-Russian" soldiers are everywhere in Crimea. Russia already got the go ahead from its Parliament on 1st March, 2014 to deploy troops in Ukraine. 10,000 troops have been deployed on the Ukranian border.
Will most people in Crimea vote for Russia?
"Not everyone wants to vote for Crimea uniting with Russia. Besides, under the current circumstances it’s impossible to tell what the Crimean people will really vote for. Many people in Kiev believe that the referendum in Crimea will be falsified", said Viktor Zamiatin of Razumkov Centre, a non-governmental Ukrainian think tank, speaking to HT on the phone from Kiev. Analysts say this is a repeat of Russia’s move during the Georgia war when Russia intervened on the pretext of "protecting Russian citizens in danger".
Do Russia’s historical ties with Crimea justify its actions?
Crimea was annexed by Russia in the 18th century, transferred to Ukraine in 1954 and occupied by Nazis during World War II. After that Stalin deported Crimea’s Tatar Muslims on the pretext that they collaborated with the Nazis. Many perished, some were able to return after the Soviet Union collapsed and Ukraine became independent in 1992. Today, Crimean Tatars make up 12% of the population in Crimea and are unlike to be on Russia’s side. Ukrainians say the historical connect Crimea has was more with the Russian empire rather than with the Russian Federation. The international community will see Russian annexation of Crimea as a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Will international sanctions harm Russia?
So far Russia has not been deterred by the threat of international sanctions. Economic and trade sanctions for Russian companies could be more serious after the referendum. Tatiana Kastueva-Jean of the Russia-NIS Centre in Paris says "Russian companies have a big debt in western banks (more that 600 billion dollars), European investments in Russia are about 170 billion dollars and the EU depends on Russian gas (30%). The most serious sanctions for Russia would be in energy field. The West can make oil prices collapse and limit Russian gas supply. This looks difficult in the short term, but is realistic in mid-term with the complicity of Saudi Arabia, for example."
Who is saying what
Mikahail Gorbachev, former Soviet President: (on his website on Friday) : "Our main task is to stop the dangerous escalation and find a solution that would be supported by Ukrainian and Russian citizens and prevent a new Cold War," the message reads.
Angela Merkel, German Chancellor: (in an address to the Parliament) blamed Russia of using old methods of "19th-century European power politics"and said "The territorial integrity of Ukraine cannot be called into question"
José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission (in the European Parliament in Strasbourg) "This is a test of our Union. What happened in Crimea was an unprovoked violation". He tweeted: "Simply not possible that 100 yrs after WWI, we see annexation of 1 part of a country by another."
Arseniy Yatsenyuk , Interim PM of Ukraine: "Ukraine is and will be part of the Western world"
Russian President Vladimir Putin (in Sochi at a meeting with paralympic delegations ) : "Russia was not the initiator of the circumstances that have taken shape"