Protesters Clash In Crimea As Russia Tightens Grip

Crimea is about to hold a referendum on leaving Ukraine and joining Russia, amidst occupying troops and protester skirmishes.
Posted at 11:58 AM, Mar 09, 2014

Crimea is counting the days until a public vote which could split the peninsula away from Ukraine.

Crimea is currently occupied by thousands of soldiers, believed to be Russian, who have surrounded Ukraine's military and naval outposts. VICE reports the soldiers have been trying to provoke the Ukraine soldiers into a violent confrontation, which might give Russia pretext for open invasion. (Via ITV)

In the latest such incident, the presumably Russian forces took control of a border outpost in Crimea late Saturday, trapping 30 of its guards inside. The Telegraph reports 11 Crimean border posts have been captured without any bloodshed so far.

This is all a week ahead of a planned referendum vote, scheduled for Mar. 16, which would poll the Crimean people on whether the region should stay a part of Ukraine, or join neighboring Russia instead.

A majority of Crimeans are ethnically Russian, and much of the population has turned out to support Russian integration in massive rallies. (Via CNN)

But there has also been increasing opposition to the referendum, and anti-Russian protests have turned violent. BBCreporters captured this footage of one demonstrator being beaten by a mob. The camera crew barely managed to avoid a similar fate. (Via Al Jazeera)

But no matter what Crimea's citizens vote on Mar. 16, the ultimate fate of the region will likely still be up in the air.

During his weekend vacation in Florida, President Obama recently phoned the leaders of several European countries, who all reportedly condemned the referendum as "a violation of Ukraine’s constitution." (Via The White House)

And Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who announced Sunday he plans to visit the U.S. next week to discuss the Crimean crisis, called the vote illegal and illegitimate — and says he won't give "an inch"of land to Russia. (Via Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty)

"Crimea was, is, and will be an integral part of Ukraine. No concessions. Full stop." (Via CNBC)

But Russia on the other hand has welcomed Crimea's referendum, and RT reports local officials estimate Crimea could change hands in about a month if the vote passes.