Ukrainian PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk called on Russia to stop stoking tensions in hiscountry. Martin Schulz, president of the EU Parliament, accused Russia of further“provocations” in Crimea. The EU has named 18 Ukrainians who will have theirassets frozen, including the country’s ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.
Lawmakers in Ukraine’ssouthern Crimea region votedThursday in favor of leavingUkraine for Russia, whichalready has the Black Sea peninsulaunder de facto control,CNN reports.The Crimean parliament alsovoted to hold a referendum onthe move in 10 days’ time.It’s not clear how easily theregion could split off if the referendumendorses the move.The autonomous region has a60% ethnic Russian population,having been part of Russia untilit was ceded to Ukraine in 1954by Soviet leader NikitaKhrushchev.But not everyone may be askeen on coming under Moscow’sdirect influence. A quarter of thepeninsula’s population isUkrainian and about 12%Crimean Tatars, a predominantlyMuslim group oppressed underformer Soviet leader Josef Stalin.The parliament in Crimeainstalled a new, pro-Moscow governmentlate last month after pro-Russian armed men took controlof the building. It had previouslysaid a referendum would be heldat the end of the month on greaterautonomy for Crimea.The new referendum questionwill be: Do you want an autonomousrepublic of Crimea withinthe Russian Federation; or doyou want an autonomous republicof Crimea within Ukraine?EU leaders were meeting yesterdayto discuss possible economicand diplomatic sanctionsagainst Russia in Brussels,Belgium. Ukrainian PrimeMinister Arseniy Yatsenyukcalled on Russia ahead of thetalks to stop stoking tensions inhis country, saying Moscowshould embrace a political solutionto the crisis.Speaking alongside MartinSchulz, president of the EU Parliament,he accused Russia offurther “provocations” inCrimea and urged Moscow topull back its forces.Yatsenyuk said it was inRussia’s hands to find a way outof the crisis. Yatsenyuk saidrepeatedly that the crisis extendedbeyond the borders of his country,which lies sandwichedbetween southwestern Russia andEurope. “This is not the Ukraineand Russia conflict. This is theconflict in Europe,” he said.Ukraine’s Ministry of Defensesaid unidentified Russianforces had scuttled an old warshipto block Ukrainian vessels ina harbor under the cover of darknessWednesday night.The ship, the Ochaka, isblocking the entrance to LakeDonuzlav, trapping up to sevenUkrainian naval vessels inside theinlet, Vladislav Seleznev, head ofthe media center of the UkrainianMinistry of Defense, told CNN.Meanwhile, riot police are ina standoff against pro-Russiandemonstrators outside key governmentbuildings in Odessa, aport city in southern Ukraine.And in the eastern Ukrainiancity of Donetsk, protesters tookover a local government buildingand were seen heading to thelocal treasury on Wednesday,witnesses told CNN.Russian Foreign MinisterSergey Lavrov earlier criticizedthe actions of NATO and aregional security bloc, amid thecontinued diplomatic wranglingover how to end the tense standoffin Crimea.Lavrov said NATO and theOrganization for Security andCo-operation in Europe “are nothelping to create an atmosphereof dialogue and constructivecooperation” with regards toUkraine. Lavrov held talks inParis on Wednesday with U.S.Secretary of State John Kerry andEuropean foreign ministers. Buthe did not meet with hisUkrainian counterpart, AndriiDeshchytsia, dashing Westernhopes that direct dialogue couldbegin between the two sides.Kerry and other European foreignministers are in Rome onThursday for a Libya donors’ conferenceand were probably to continueto huddle on Ukraine there.The Organization forSecurity and Co-operation inEurope said Wednesday it hadsent 35 unarmed militaryobservers to Odessa in responseto a request from Kiev.