Russia Welcomes Crimean Referendum

Moscow's top legislators say they welcome a Crimean referendum to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.

Russia Welcomes Crimean Referendum
The New York Times / Sergey Ponomarev

While Ukraine's interim prime minister warns Crimea "no-one in the civilized world" will recognize its referendum to join Russia, political leaders in Moscow say they welcome a Crimean vote to break away. 

Welcoming a delegation of Crimean politicians to Moscow Friday, leaders in both houses of the Russian Parliament announced their support for a public vote in Crimea that, if approved, would allow the region to be absorbed into the Russian Federation. (Via BBC)

The remarks by Moscow's top legislators, close allies of the country's President Vladimir Putin, come just a day after Crimea's regional assembly unanimously approved the referendum. Prompting howls of outrage from Ukraine's interim government and its supporters. (Via CBS)

Ukraine's interim prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told "separatist[s] and other traitors of the Ukrainian state" Thursday: "Any decision of yours is deliberately unlawful and unconstitutional and no one ... will recognize the decision of the so-called referendum of the so-called Crimean authorities." (Via Bloomberg)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: "Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine. In 2014, we are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders.” (Via The White House)

President Obama and other Western leaders have made it clear Ukraine should be able to decide its own fate, and the new government in Kiev should be able to operate freely without interference from Russia. 

However, Russia and the Moscow-backed Crimean Parliament don't recognize Ukraine's interim government as legitimate, claiming it was formed under an unconstitutional coup. They argue the people in the Crimean peninsula, a largely Russian speaking area, should also have the right to self-determination. (Via The New York Times)

With that said, the BBC explains the outcome of a referendum is by no means certain: "Although the majority of people in Crimea are ethnic Russians ...  [it] may come down to a generational split."

Even if the measure is approved, The Wall Street Journal explains world leaders may not view it as a "free and fair" vote since the region is under de facto Russian occupation. 

If it were approved, "[Russia's] move to absorb Crimea against the will of Ukraine's national government would mark the first time since World War II that such a maneuver had been attempted in Europe."

The vote on the Crimean referendum is set to take place March 16th.