Russian Legislators Present Bill to Facilitate Annexation of Ukrainian Crimea
Members of the strongly pro-Putin Just Russia Party are introducing a bill in the Duma that would make it easier for Russia to annex territories that vote to join the nation. According to the drafters of the bill, the objective would be to "lend a hand" to pro-Russian forces in Ukraine.
According to the UK Telegraph, Just Russia Party second-in-command Mikhail Yemelyanov introduced a bill today that would allow any territory that has a referendum vote or passes a law in their local legislatures indicating a desire to be a part of Russia to become an official territory of the Russian Federation. This would eliminate the requirement that the nation currently calling the territory part of their sovereign land must agree to hand that territory over to Russia.
The bill would make it possible for the Parliament of Crimea, a Ukrainian territory in the South populated heavily by ethnic Russians, to become a part of Russia by simply passing a law or a referendum vote.
According to Venezuelan newspaper El Universal, the Just Russia Party is not being coy about the move being a direct attempt to annex parts of Ukraine. "With this law," said party leader Vladimir Vassilyev, "we are lending a hand to help our friends in Ukraine." Vassilyev is a co-sponsor of the bill, and added that Crimea "keeps their destiny in their own hands" even if the bill is passed.
Pro-Ukraine and pro-Russia protesters clashed before the Crimean Parliament yesterday as ethnic Russians in the region seized the opportunity of the nation's unrest to call for annexation. In the midst of civilian clashes, armed gunmen described by witnesses as "professionals" seized the Parliament and raised a Russian flag over it. Similarly mysterious pro-Russia gunmen hijacked the Crimean airport this morning. Pro-Putin pseudo news outlet Russia Today reported that the Crimean government was officially dissolved yesterday, replaced with a new crop of pro-Russia politicians.
With a fully pro-Russian government, Crimea would be able to either stage a referendum on leaving Ukraine and becoming a state of Russia or pass a law that officially declares Crimea part of Russia, should the Just Russia Party bill pass. Without the bill, any declaration by Crimea that they are a part of Russia would have to be recognized by Ukraine for Russia to legally accept it. Given the fluid nature of international law, the Russian bill would have no impact on whether other states in the world accept Crimea as a part of Russia or Ukraine, just as it would not should Crimea declare itself a sovereign nation.
Yesterday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel warned Russia not to behave in any way that "could be misinterpreted" and to "avoid provocative actions" in the region. President Obama warned there would be "consequences" if elements in Ukraine "steps over a line."