February 21, 2013 By

Referendum: Crimeans Back ‘Going Home’

77With more than ninety five percent of the Crimeans backing the peninsula’s unification with Russia in a referendum held on Sunday, Crimea’s parliament has formally declared independence.The Black Sea peninsula which was once a part of Russia will be annexed to what crimeans called as returning to their motherland.  People celebrated in Lenin Square in Simferopol with Sergei Aksyonov, Crimea’s leader, addressing the supporters that Crimea was “going home”. The peninsula had been part of Russia until Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, in 1954.

The much disputed referendum whether Ukraine’s Crimea region should join Russia or become an independent state was condemned by the United States and European Union as illegitimate with the world leaders refusing to recognize the outcome of the poll which was also considered illegal by the Ukrainian constitutional law.

President Barack Obama announced sanctions on Monday against seven Russian and three Crimean senior officials who he said “bear political responsibility for the crisis” in the former Soviet satellite including advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin as well as Crimea’s Prime Minister Serhiy Aksyonov.  Obama warned Moscow in Washington saying that “further provocations would achieve nothing except to further isolate Russia and diminish its place in the world.”

The EU imposed sanctions including travel restrictions and asset freezes on top pro-Russian Crimean secessionist leaders, ten leading Russian lawmakers who supported the annexation of Crimea and three top Russian military commanders.

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, would be addressing both houses of the Russian parliament on Tuesday on Crimea and is expected to release his retaliation list in response to sanctions imposed on Russian officials and law makers , reports say. This includes top Obama administration officials and high profile U.S. senators, with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, topping the list.  He recently co-authored a resolution criticizing Russia’s invasion of Crimea.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general expressed his concern and deep disappointment about the outcome of Sunday’s vote in Crimea to break away from Ukraine and join the Russian federation. While majority of the Crimean population who are ethnic Russians voted for joining Russia, many of them including the Tatar minority and some ethnic Ukrainians, abstained from the referendum urging the Ukrainian government to offer more protection for them.

The Crimean lawmakers have approved the legislation to make Russian ruble the official currency in Crimea alongside the Ukrainian hryvnia, according to a statement posted on the Crimean Parliament’s website. The hryvnia would remain an official currency until January 1, 2016.

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