Russia Defends Crimea's Referendum, Merkel Demands More Observers

Russia Defends Crimea's Referendum, Merkel Demands More Observers

German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone as Crimea votes in a referendum to remain with Ukraine or join Russia. Merkel is one of many Western leaders who have said the referendum is illegal and will not recognize the outcome.

In a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin said the referendum complied with international law, including Article 1 of the U.N. Charter which states the principle of self-determination of peoples.

“It was emphasized that Russia will respect the choice of Crimean people,” a Kremlin statement said.

However, Crimea is an autonomous republic of Ukraine. The United Nations Security Council has met several times about Ukraine and tried to pass a resolution to make the referendum invalid. Russia vetoed the resolution and China abstained from voting so it did not pass.

Merkel again pressured Putin to allow people from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to go to Ukraine to monitor the situation, especially in east Ukraine.

According to Merkel’s spokesman, Putin welcomed the German chancellor’s proposal to swiftly expand the existing OSCE presence in Ukraine, especially in East Ukraine.

The Kremlin’s statement only said there was a “constructive exchange of views on the possible deployment in Ukraine of a large-scale OSCE mission to monitor the situation.”

It is not known if he will keep his word because every time the OSCE tried to enter Crimea they were turned away. Gunmen fired two warning shots at the group in at least one incident.

For two days in a row, pro-Russians have protested in Donestk, a prominent city in the east where the majority of the population are ethnic Russians. On March 13, pro-Ukrainians held a peaceful rally in Lenin Square, but pro-Russians attacked and started violent fights. Two people were killed and 11 sent to the hospital.


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