Crimea Moves Forward With Vote On Joining Russia

Crimea will vote Sunday to determine whether the region should split with Ukraine and join Russia, a move which has been internationally condemned.
Posted at 9:59 PM, Mar 15, 2014

The citizens of Crimea head to the polls Sunday to vote on splitting the region off from Ukraine and joining it with Russia. And the referendum looks to be moving forward despite outrage abroad and protests at home.

Competing demonstrations turned violent in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk Thursday, as pro-Russian protesters scrapped with those insisting Crimea remain part of Ukraine. At least one person was killed in the fighting. (Via VICE)

Similar clashes in Kharkiv, Ukraine led to two deaths Friday night. Russian-owned media outlet RIA Novosti reports pro-Russian protesters were killed in a shootout with Ukrainian nationalist groups.

There's also been international pressure to discredit the vote. A United Nations Security Council measure meant to nullify the results of the referendum was defeated Saturday thanks to a Russian veto.

But for all the turmoil, most observers say the result of the outcome of the referendum is a foregone conclusion.

"It's, I think, pretty logical to expect that the majority will vote for being independent and joining Russia when you consider that 60 percent of the population there is Russian." (Via CNN)

"There's been a sort of euphoric mood among the Russian population in Crimea here. They feel they've already won this referendum, they're absolutely certain it's going to be a landslide." (Via BBC)

The big question now is what will happen if Russia does annex Crimea from Ukraine — a move the U.S., United Kingdom, France and Germany say violates a U.N. charter against taking sovereign territory through military means.

Diplomatic relations between Russia and Western countries have soured over the Crimean crisis, and the U.S. and E.U. have both threatened to impose sanctions on Russia. (Via Voice of America)

KERRY: "There will be a very serious series of steps on Monday with respect to the options that are available." (Via NBC)

As for Ukraine, its soldiers have been locked in a standoff with Russian soldiers in the Crimean peninsula since the beginning of the month. Now they might have to contend with Russian advances on the Ukrainian mainland.

Late Saturday The New York Times reported Russian troops had seized a gas plant just beyond the border of Crimea, in what the paper described as "testing Ukrainian leaders’ resolve to engage Russia’s much more powerful military if it moved beyond Crimea." Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denounced the move and mobilized troops in response. 

Crimea's referendum begins at 8 a.m. Sunday morning Eastern European time.