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December 1, 2021

Ukraine crisis: Crimea votes in referendum that divides Russia, U.S.

Ukraine’s PM Yatsenyuk dismissed the referendum as illegitimate under Ukrainian
and international law. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry referred to Russian “military invasion”.

Residents of Ukraine’s Crimea region headed to the polls Sunday to vote in a disputed referendum on whether to join Russia or become an effectively independent state connected to Ukraine, CNN reports.
Beyond the question of Crimea’s future status, the vote will likely influence future international relations in the region and beyond – having put the United States and Russia on the kind of collision course not seen since the end of the Cold War.
Results are expected on Monday. The United States, which says the vote is illegal, has already said it expects the Black Sea peninsula’s majority ethnic Russian population to vote in favor of joining Russia. Moscow has strongly backed the referendum. Kicking off the polling in a prerecorded statement, Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov called on the residents of Crimea to cast their vote “independent of nationalism and disintegration.”
Aksyonov acknowledged that the “eyes of the entire world are on us today.” He asked Crimeans to show their aspiration to “live free in the world with friendly relations with all.”
As of noon voter turnout for all of Crimea was at 44.27% of eligible voters, with 670,831 votes cast so far, Mikhail Malyshev, the head of the Crimean Election Commission, told reporters in the regional capital, Simferopol.
But Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, speaking in Kiev, dismissed the referendum as illegitimate under Ukrainian and international law, and improperly run.
Pro-Russian troops remain firmly in control of the Black Sea peninsula. Ukraine and the West insist the soldiers belong to Moscow, but the Kremlin vehemently denies it, saying they are Crimean “self-defense” forces.
Russia tightened its military grip Saturday. About 60 Russian troops in six helicopters and three armored vehicles reportedly crossed into Ukraine’s Kherson region and were in the town of Strilkove, on a strip of land just northeast of Crimea.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry termed the move a “military invasion” and called on Russia to withdraw its forces.
Saturday, Russia wielded its veto power as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council against a U.S. draft resolution that declared Sunday’s Crimea referendum invalid.
If the vote goes in favor of joining Russia, Crimea’s government will declare its independence and ask Moscow to let it join the Russian Federation. Russian lawmakers have said they’ll vote on the question on Friday.
Talks between U.S. Secretary John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov ended in disagreement.
After a call with Kerry on Saturday, Lavrov said in a statement that Crimea’s referendum conforms to international law.

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