Tension high in Crimea ahead of referendum vote

Residents of the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine will vote on a referendum Sunday to secede from Ukraine in favor of a closer relationship with Russia.
By Aileen Graef  |  March 14, 2014 at 3:09 PM
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Tensions are high among people in Crimea as they prepare to vote on the referendum that would result in secession from Ukraine if passed.

Reporters interviewing Crimeans at long bank lines meet with stony silence as people refuse to speak with them about the tense situation that has brought Russia and the West to a head. A few believe that when the vote is done and the dust settles, it will ease the atmosphere.

"We just need to get through it, there's always difficulties," said one woman, "It will pass. Everything is going to be alright."

The EU and the United States have strongly condemned Russia for their intervention in Crimea and have warned that if the vote goes through, they will impose sanctions on Russia for threatening the sovereignty of Ukraine. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in an attempt to stop the vote. Those talks broke down Friday as Lavrov told reporters that there is, "no common view" on how to proceed and Kerry added his own statement about the fruitless talks.

"After much discussion, the foreign minister made it clear that President [Vladimir] Putin is not prepared to make any decision regarding Ukraine until after the referendum on Sunday," said Kerry in the press conference.

There is little doubt that the referendum will pass with the military presence from Russia and the strong push from Russian-speaking Ukrainians to distance themselves from the new Ukrainian government. As people from the Crimean region walk down the streets, they see signs about the March 16 vote with the words, "with Russia" and checked ballot box next to it.

If the referendum does pass, Western nations are concerned that Putin will attempt to push further into Ukraine, but Lavrov has said Russia has no such plans -- with the caveat that they will not allow a repeat of the violence that occurred in late February when protesters ousted former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.


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