Despite Violations During Referendum, Russia Promises Crimea Fast Integration

Despite Violations During Referendum, Russia Promises Crimea Fast Integration

Unofficial exit polls show 93% of Crimeans voted to leave Ukraine for Russia, and Moscow is not waiting around to legitimize and integrate Crimea.

The leader of A Just Russia Party, Sergei Mironov, told Channel One on March 16 the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, will quickly approve all laws on Crimean accession to Russia. “All will happen strictly and quickly. Our Crimean brothers should not doubt,” Mironov said.

Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov took to Twitter and said parliament members will travel to Moscow. The ruble, Moscow’s currency, will be introduced as the country’s second currency behind Ukraine’s hryvna. The country will have dual currencies for roughly six months.

No honored or reputable organization was in Crimea to oversee the election. The Kyiv Post said violations were spotted during the 12-hour vote. Reporters from the publication were not allowed to view a vote count, and police even attacked a Russian crew.

Police smashed a TV camera of a Russian crew. “We just wanted to see the vote count, but they called us provocateurs and pushed us away,” said Ekaterina Vinokurova of znak.com, crying.

Yevheny Bontman, a journalist with Echo Moskvy, said he saw many people were supporting Russia and wanted to “confirm the vote count, but they pushed me away,” Bontman said. “We don’t have things like this in Russia.”

The lone observer at the polling station said Crimean election officials had every right to ban everyone from the vote count except for those people actually conducting it, a violation of democratic election principles.

One journalist from Russia was allowed to vote.

A Russian journalist was reportedly allowed to vote today after she showed her temporary Simferopol living permit, which is good for just one year.

“I told them I am a citizen of Russia, but I have a living permit for Simferopol and asked if I can vote,” the woman said. “The woman told me that sure I can vote, because I live here. She hand-wrote my name in a separate list. That list contained five more names besides mine. She gave me the ballot, I went into the booth and voted.”

Asked by another journalist whether she considered this voter fraud, she said that according to all laws, “this is illegal.”

“I am a foreign citizen. How can I decide the destiny of the Crimean Autonomous Republic of Ukraine?” she added.

The Crimean Tatars threatened to boycott the referendum. When journalists went to Kamenka, home to many Tatars, Zhanna Nikitenko, head of the election commission at one station, said 55% of the registered voters voted. At the other station, only 10% of the registered voters participated, and the one Tatar couple the Kyiv Post found did not want to talk.

Nikitenko said the atmosphere was peaceful, but reporters noticed there were at least six soldiers keeping an eye on the station. One reporter asked a soldier if he was Russian, and he quickly said “no.” The situation described sounded similar to the voter intimidation case of the Black Panthers in Philadelphia in 2008.

The official results will not be released for another day or two. No matter the results, the West and Ukraine said they will not recognize the outcome. President Obama told Russian President Vladimir Putin there will be harsh sanctions against Russia if it accepts the referendum.

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