Referendum in Crimea as two Presidents talk
Differing reports suggest that between 95% and 97% of those who voted in a referendum in Crimea yesterday have voted to leave the Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. No figures have, as yet, been published for turnout with the referendum being held on out of date electoral registers.
The Ukrainian government, United States and most of the International Community have made it clear that they do not recognise the results of the referendum. The Crimean peninsula is, in any event, already controlled by Russian troops which are said to have swelled by around 20,000 in the past month.
The ballot paper for the referendum asked people if they wanted Crimea to join the Russian Federation or return to the 1992 constitution which gave the region much more autonomy. There was no option for the status quo to remain with Ukraine as a semi-autonomous region.
The United States and European Union are expected to announce sanctions against Russia today as a result of their military incursion into Crimea and support for the referendum.
Yesterday President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama held a telephone conversation. These are the official reports of the conversation as published by both sides with the Russian version first:
“Telephone conversation with US President Barack Obama
March 17, 2014, 00:30
At the US initiative, Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with US President Barack Obama.
The two presidents continued discussions on the various aspects of the crisis in Ukraine. Mr Putin noted that the current authorities in Kiev have so far failed to demonstrate the ability and desire to rein in the ultranationalist and radical groups that are destabilising the situation in the country and terrorising ordinary people, including the Russian-speaking population and Russia’s compatriots.
In this context, the two presidents discussed the possibility of sending an OSCE mission to monitor the situation in Ukraine. Mr Putin said that this mission, if it goes ahead, should cover all parts of Ukraine.
Regarding the March 16 referendum in Crimea, Mr Putin said that the decision to hold the referendum was in line with international law and the UN Charter, and was also in line with the precedent set by Kosovo. The referendum was organised in such a way as to guarantee Crimea’s population the possibility to freely express their will and exercise their right to self-determination.
The two presidents said that despite their differences of opinion, they must continue working together to seek solutions that will help to stabilise the situation in Ukraine.
Mr Obama congratulated Mr Putin on the success of the Paralympic Games and asked Mr Putin to pass on his greetings to the athletes.”
The American report:
“Readout of the President’s Call with President Putin
President Obama spoke this afternoon with President Putin of Russia. President Obama emphasized that the Crimean “referendum,” which violates the Ukrainian constitution and occurred under duress of Russian military intervention, would never be recognized by the United States and the international community. He emphasized that Russia’s actions were in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and that, in coordination with our European partners, we are prepared to impose additional costs on Russia for its actions. President Obama underscored that there remains a clear path for resolving this crisis diplomatically, in a way that addresses the interests of both Russia and the people of Ukraine. He noted that the Ukrainian government continues to take concrete steps that would allow for the de-escalation of the crisis, particularly as it prepares for elections this Spring and undertakes constitutional reform, and he asked that Russia support the immediate deployment of international monitors to help prevent acts of violence by any groups. President Obama reiterated that a diplomatic resolution cannot be achieved while Russian military forces continue their incursions into Ukrainian territory and that the large-scale Russian military exercises on Ukraine’s borders only exacerbate the tension. President Obama said that Secretary Kerry continues to be prepared to work together with Foreign Minister Lavrov and the Ukrainian government to find a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.”