Latest Update: Crimean Parliament Votes to Join Russian Federation
So this is all over the news, but the Crimean Parliament has voted to join the Russian Federation. The decision does not go into force unless approved by a referendum to be held on March 16 (I think I have the date right). The Parliament, elected in 2010, is dominated by pro-Russian parties, in particular the Party of the Regions, which got 49% of the vote in that election. Near as I can tell, pro-Ukrainian parties won only about 20% of the vote.
The parliament had on Feb. 27 scheduled a referendum for May 2014. It has now moved elections up by two months, making it harder to arrange international monitoring. Moreover, there will almost certainly be intimidation at the polls by pro-Russian “activists” and probably vote fraud. But the referendum might well win even in an open and free election.
Not only is the parliament dominated by pro-Russian deputies to begin with, but both the decision on Feb. 27 not to recognize the Kiev government and the decision today took place in a building controlled by heavily armed pro-Russian troops and/or “activists”. Reports are that somewhere between 60 and 70+ deputies of 100 voted pro-Russia in both votes, a handful abstained and a number of others were not present.
The leader of the Mejlis, the assembly representing the Crimean Tatars (a minority ethnic group speaking a language related to Turkish that once dominated Crimea), urges Crimean Tatars to boycott the referendum. The Tatars, about 12 percent of the population, fear Russian rule more than Ukrainian. Indeed, the pro-Russian Crimean parliament has voted to disband the Mejlis.