Two days ago, Vladimir Putin assured the world that he had no intention of annexing Crimea. Why, those Russian-speaking armed forces who seized government buildings and airports were just local boys protecting the peninsula from an illegal regime in Kyiv, the Russian strongman insisted. (Oh, and those pieces of heavy mobile artillery rolling down the highway to Sevastopol? Boys will be boys.) But annex Crimea back into Russia? No, no, no, no, no.
MPs in the southern Ukrainian region of Crimea have voted to formally become part of the Russian Federation.
Parliament said the decision would be put to the Crimean people for their verdict in a referendum on 16 March.
Fox News has more on the suddenly-rogue province:
Rustam Teemirgaliev told the Russian RIA newsagency as saying that the referendum would be held March 16. The agency reported that the referendum would consist of two questions. The first would ask whether voters wished to join Russia “as a subject of the [Russian Federation].” The second question would ask whether voters wished to remain a part of Ukraine as laid out in the country’s post-Soviet 1992 constitution.
“This is our response to the disorder and lawlessness in Kiev,” Sergei Shuvainikov, a member of the local Crimean legislature, told the Associated Press Thursday. “We will decide our future ourselves.”
The parliament in Crimea, which enjoys a degree of autonomy under current Ukrainian law, voted 78-0 with eight abstentions in favor of holding the referendum. Local voters will also be given the choice of deciding to remain part of Ukraine, but with enhanced local powers.
Originally that was the only question on the referendum, and it was set for later in the month. After a few revisions, the date got moved up and the horizons got pushed out. The only reason they’re not asking for full independence is because they know they can’t sustain it. Crimea needs either Russia or Ukraine in order to survive economically.
Putin said he wanted Crimeans to choose their own path, and that’s what Crimeans claim to be doing. However, plebescites under occupation have a long and inglorious history of producing whatever outcome the occupying power wants them to produce. To extend the analogy offered by everyone up to Hillary Clinton, the Anschluss had a plebescite following the arrival of Nazi troops, too. The people of the newly-renamed Ostmark approved by 99.7%, similar to what one usually sees when dictators hold “elections.”
There isn’t much to be done to stop Russia from forcibly taking Crimea from Ukraine, though. The West will not go to war with Russia to stop it, and so far can’t even agree on economic sanctions to punish Putin for his adventurism. That is a bad sign for the new government in Kyiv, a city which might soon find itself on the western border of Russia after a couple of more plebescites.