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.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
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
Latest stories from i100
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

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash