World Bulletin / News Desk
Crimean Tatar Mejlis (parliament) leader Refat Chubarov has announced that the Crimean Tatars will boycott the upcoming referendum regarding Crimea's status.
The new Crimean parliament, which came to power after former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich was ousted from the presidential palace in Kiev in late February, announced that Crimea would hold a referendum on March 16 regarding whether or not it should breakaway from Ukraine and join Russia.
Both the Crimean Tatars, who are the native Turkic-speaking Muslim population of Crimea and the new Kiev government have condemned the referendum and unconstitutional, especially as it is being held in a climate of tension in which gunmen in unmarked uniforms are occupying the peninsula.
Chubarov has also accused the new Crimean parliament of not consulting the Crimean Tatar community, which prefers to stay with Ukraine, and therefore stated that he did not recognize its authority.
Despite the planned referendum in 10 days time, the Crimean parliament earlier today voted in favor of joining Russia. As Crimea has been predominently Russian since Soviet dictator exiled the Crimean Tatars in 1944, the referendum is expected to produce a similar result.
Describing the parliament decision and referendum as an 'illogical' and 'illegal' provocation, Chubarov called on United Nations forces to come to the region.
" The United Nations should have already arrived here. If they come later it will make no difference. We do not possess the strength to stop this on our own," he said.
"UKRAINE WILL DEFEND ITSELF"
Ukraine is ready to use military force to defend itself if Russia further expands its presence on Ukrainian soil, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on Thursday, emphasising that Ukraine would not be made subordinate to its neighbour.
Speaking at a news conference after meeting European Union leaders in Brussels, Yatseniuk said Crimea was and would remain an intregal part of Ukraine and dismissed a decision by Crimea's parliament to join up with Russia.
"In case of further escalation and military intervention into Ukraininan territory by foreign forces, the Ukrainian government and military will act in accordance with the constitution and laws," Yatseniuk said.
"We are ready to protect our country."
Ukrainian forces have so far not responded to the takeover of the Crimean peninsula by Russian forces, although there have been tense exchanges caught on film between Ukrainian soldiers and armed Russians in unmarked uniforms in some areas.
The parliament in Crimea voted unanimously earlier on Thursday to leave Ukraine and join Russia, while maps on at least one Russian TV station started showing the peninsula as being part of Russian territory, not of Ukraine.
Yatseniuk called the parliament's decision illegitimate and said a referendum on Crimea's status, called by the region's vice premier for March 16, had no legal grounds.
"Crimea is, was and will be an integral part of Ukraine," Yatseniuk said, speaking in English and raising his voice for clarity.
The prime minister, who received a package of financial support worth 11 billion euros ($15 billion) from EU leaders, said his focus remained on achieving a peaceful solution to the conflict, but said that depended on Russia co-operating.
"All that is happening now - the decision by the Crimean Supreme Council and statements by the Federation Council and State Duma - are evidence that this is coordinated action," Interfax news agency quoted Yevhen Perebiynis as saying.
"Now the masks are off and we can see for what purpose it all began."
In the past two days, Russia has shown brief signs of being willing to "de-escalate" the situation, with President Vladimir Putin speaking by phone to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and appearing to agree to a "contact group" to mediate the crisis.
However, no sooner have steps been taken towards calming the situation than developments on the ground - such as the vote by the Crimean parliament, or reports of international mediators being detained - have created new uncertainty.
U.S. President Barack Obama took executive steps to impose sanctions including visa bans on individuals in Russia and Ukraine on Thursday, but did not say who might be targeted.
At the same time, EU leaders are considering whether to take similar steps against Russia for its actions in Ukraine. Most diplomats do not expect any hard-hitting measures to be agreed, largely because under EU rules unanimity is required.
But the latest developments on the ground in Ukraine suggested that EU leaders may feel pressure to be seen to do something, and some officials indicated that they could decide to suspend visa discussions with Russia, as well as talks on a new investment and cooperation pact.Last Mod: 06 Mart 2014, 17:34