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Vol. 78/No. 12      March 31, 2014

Moscow moves to seize
Crimea after sham vote
Moscow moved rapidly to annex the Crimean Peninsula after pushing through a rigged referendum there March 16. Russian soldiers and local thugs seized the headquarters of the Ukrainian Navy in Sevastopol and arrested its commander March 19.

Two days after the referendum Russian soldiers in ski masks took over a car dealership that belongs to a Ukrainian businessman who backs the government in Kiev.

Crimea has officially been part of Ukraine for six decades. Its geography, economy, and everyday life remains intertwined with Ukraine. The only way to reach Crimea from Russia is by ferry boat or plane — the only roads are from Ukraine. The Crimean Peninsula gets 85 percent of its water and 82 percent of its electricity from the mainland.

Russian troops invaded Crimea a little more than two weeks ago, occupying its airports, surrounding Ukrainian military bases and imposing a new pro-Moscow prime minister on the province. The Russian government falsely claimed ethnic Russians there were in danger after the overthrow of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych by hundreds of thousands, who it slandered as “nationalists, fascists, anti-Semites and Russophobes.”

About 12 percent of the population of Crimea are Tatars, 25 percent Ukrainians and 58 percent ethnic Russians. First the czars, then Joseph Stalin — after he reversed the policy of the Bolsheviks under the leadership of V.I. Lenin to advance the national rights of Ukrainians and other oppressed people — encouraged Russians to move there to maintain Russian domination of the region.

During World War II, Stalin exiled the entire Tatar population of Crimea. Nearly half of them died during the journey. After Stalin’s death they began returning to Crimea and in even greater numbers after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Today many live in neighborhoods without cooking gas, running water or paved roads.

Successive governments in Kiev have turned a deaf ear to Tatar demands for recognition of their rights, sufficient aid to compensate them for their forced deportation and a greater voice in the Crimean parliament.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to take advantage of anti-Tatar discrimination by offering to give their language official status in a Russian Crimea and guarantee them 20 percent of posts in government bodies, according to the Ukrainian Week.

But Tatar organizations held roadside demonstrations urging Crimeans to boycott the fraudulent vote, holding signs that said, “Crimea is Ukraine.” Tatars also organized neighborhood defense groups to prevent provocations by pro-Moscow thugs.

Supporters of Russian domination hung posters around Sevastopol saying that joining Russia would bring higher wages and pensions, cheaper gas and more jobs. At the same time, armored personnel carriers and military convoys rumbled down streets across the region.

There were only two choices on the ballot: for immediate separation from Ukraine and integration into Russia; or for greater autonomy from Ukraine and possible integration into Russia at a later time. The ballot boxes were made of clear plastic, making it easy to see how each person voted.

Moscow’s show of military force shored up its support among a layer of ethnic Russians who long for a return to open Russian domination.

“I am Russian and my husband is Tatar. We never had a single problem with anyone,” Tatiana Zhritov, whose husband is a car mechanic, told the Washington Post. “Now Russia is trying to divide us, and it is a terrible crime.”

Crimean officials announced that 96.77 percent of ballots backed joining the Russian Federation and claimed there was a 79 percent voter turnout.

Washington and its imperialist allies in the European Union responded by imposing sanctions on a few dozen Russian officials, mostly visa restrictions and asset freezes.

Earlier in the month the EU announced it would provide $15 billion in loans to Ukraine, which is in a deep economic crisis. Washington chimed in with $1 billion in loan guarantees. According to Reuters, the so-called aid package is contingent on Ukraine agreeing to “some harsh economic medicine.”
Related articles:
Working people at center of fight for Ukraine sovereignty
Militant’s on-the-scene report from Kiev
Protesters in London demand Russian troops out of Crimea
March in Toronto backs Ukrainian sovereignty
Moscow rally protests Russian occupation of Crimea
Contribute to ‘Militant’ reporting team to Ukraine
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