Crimea crisis: Foreign leaders condemn ‘Russia’s destabilising actions’ as 93% vote in referendum for secession

Crimea votes 93 per cent in favour of coming under rule of the Kremlin as Ukrainian leaders in Kiev vow to hunt down separatist ringleaders and bring them to justice. Kim Sengupta reports from Simferopol

Crimea has voted to embrace Kremlin rule, escalating an already grave international crisis to an incendiary level.

Amid scathing attacks that voting had been illegal, rigged and delivered under the shadow of threats from Russian troops, exit polls –according to news agencies in Moscow – were tonight showing that 93 per cent had voted for joining Russia, higher even than the 82 per cent claimed a few hours earlier by Crimea’s Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliev and 80 per cent a few days ago by the Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov.

There were fireworks, fiery speeches and songs as several thousand supporters of joining Russia celebrated in Simferpol”s   Lenin Square on Sunday night.

The announcement of the result was met by prolonged and deafening cheers and chants of “ Russia, Russia” from the growing crowd. Two leaders of the separatist government, prime minister Sergei Aksyonov and speaker Vladimir Konstantinov roused them to an even higher pitch by announcing that a delegation will be travelling to Moscow on Monday to accept Crimea into the Russian Federation.

 

Three veterans of the Soviet Union’s Afghan War was taken through the crowd to loud applause; one of them, in a wheelchair, held up his row of medals: “ I am now back in my own country, I didn’t fight and lose my legs for those Nazis in Kiev.” An elderly couple were in tears as the national anthem was sung; Mr Aksyonov, however, was not moving his lips, offering the suspicion that the great patriot did not know the words.

The Ukrainian government in Kiev called what had taken place a “ circus” and vowed to hunt down separatist “ringleaders” and “bring them to justice”. Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk announced plans to arm and train 20,000 members of a newly created National Guard to defend the nation and warned Crimean politicians who had called the vote that “the ground will burn under their feet”.

The US and European Union stated they would not recognise the process or the outcome and threatened Russia with further economic sanctions, which are due to be discussed at a meeting of foreign ministers today. The Russian President Vladimir Putin, they warned, must not to use the results to annex the state.

Read more: Crimea’> > s Russian Union: What happens next?
Comment: Is the West trying to upset the Russians?
Editorial: Putin’s land-grab does not mean a return of the Soviet empire

In Simferopol on Sunday night, pro-Russians were holding a rally and concert at Lenin Square; there were processions of cars and motorbikes with horns blowing and fireworks exploding. Among those celebrating was Leonid Baskarov, a former soldier: “This is the greatest day of my life; it is the greatest day of the life of Crimea,” he shouted with roars of approval from other revelers.

But in the neighbourhoods of Crimea’s Tatar and Ukrainian minorities, the streets were empty – the atmosphere one of deep trepidation.

The last day of united Ukraine had been a strangely muted one; the already semi-autonomous region of Crimea was slipping away without any signs of outrage on the streets. The opponents of secession appeared to have accepted a fait accompli, preparing themselves for the tempestuous times that lay ahead.

There were potential flashpoints, including the revelation by the governing council of the largely anti-Russian Tatar community, the Mejlis, that an activist who had been missing for almost two weeks had been found dead, his body bearing marks of torture. There were also claims of irregular time-keeping at polling stations in pro-Russian areas, and that those locations had been used by people ineligible to vote.

Most of those opposed to secession had boycotted the referendum, including: the overwhelming majority of the Tatar community, who, according to the last census taken 13 years ago, account for 13 per cent of the state’s population; the Ukrainians, who make up 23 per cent; and a significant minority of Russians, who form 53 per cent.

In Washington, the White House spokesman Jay Carney said the vote was as “dangerous and destabilising… As the United States and our allies have made clear, military intervention and violation of international law will bring increasing costs for Russia – not only due to measures imposed by the United States and our allies but also as a direct result of Russia’s own destabilising actions.”

The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, arriving for the EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels, said: “I condemn the fact that this referendum has taken place, in breach of the Ukrainian constitution and in defiance of calls by the international community for restraint... The UK does not recognise the referendum or its outcome... we believe measures must be adopted that send a strong signal to Russia that this challenge to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine will bring economic and political consequences.”

Despite the threats against separatists from Kiev on Sunday, the presence of the Kremlin’s force of 21,000 will make exacting retribution a difficult proposition. Mr Yatsenyuk has just returned from America where he has received plenty of expressions of moral support but no offer of weapons for the fledgling National Guard.

The Ukrainian Defence Minister, Ihor Tenyukh, complained about Moscow far exceeding the bilateral agreed limit for 12,500 personnel to be deployed in Crimea with the Black Sea Fleet. But he also announced that a truce had been arranged with Moscow until 21 March.

Details of this were not clear. Ukrainian officials stated that this meant siege of their forces inside Crimea would be lifted until that date. But their Crimean counterparts held this was to ensure there were no outbreaks of hostilities as they begin their process of withdrawal, which Mr Aksyonov had declared should start today. The two countries’ are also in a stand-off further north, where Kiev has accused the Russians of occupying the border village of Striklove.

Meanwhile, separatist protests which had led to deaths in recent days continued in the eastern and south-eastern parts of the country. In Donetsk, the office of the chief prosecutor was stormed by a crowd chanting “Donetsk is a Russian city”; the group then attacked the headquarters of the security services.

The Russian government had reserved the right to intervene elsewhere in the Ukraine when sending troops into Crimea; Mr Putin was reported to have expressed his disquiet over what was happening in Donetsk to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a telephone conversation blaming right-wing groups acting with the consent of the Kiev government.

The German foreign ministry stated that Ms Merkel had taken the opportunity to propose expanding the number of international observers from the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe) to eastern Ukraine and this had met with Mr Putin’s approval. This will not, however, happen in Crimea, where attempts by an OSCE military team to gain entry had failed at the border with, on one occasion, members of pro-Russian self-defence forces firing over their heads.

At Bakhchisarai, the ancient capital of the Tatar kingdom which once ruled this region, Ilmi Umarov, the head of the regional administration, was holding urgent talks with the visiting Lithuanian ambassador. “We feel that our people are now in great danger and we are making this aware to the international community. There has been a lot of intimidation and we have to ensure that our people do not react to provocation.”

At one of the town’s polling stations, Tamara Garbus, pointed out it was the violence at the Maidan [the centre of pro-EU protests in Kiev] which Russia blamed on fascists and neo-Nazis, which had persuaded her to vote for joining Russia. “I am 62 years old, I did not want to leave Ukraine for another country”, she said. “But we were very frightened that these fascists would come to Crimea and do the same kind of things. It is Ukraine which has driven us away.” Some others felt that the West had taken a highly patronising attitude towards Crimean aspirations.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Helpdesk Team Leader / Manager

£45000 per annum + pension,medical: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable gl...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Project Manager

£35000 per annum + £5k bonus, car: Ashdown Group: A successful business that h...

IT Infrastructure Project Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A large and well established business is look...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born