Kyiv, 16 March 2014 – An illegal referendum initiated by separatists is being held in Crimea and Sevastopol today with two questions being put to vote: “Do you support reuniting Crimea with Russia as a subject of the Russian Federation?” and “Do you support the restoration of the 1992 Crimean Constitution and Crimea’s status as a part of Ukraine?” Voting will last until 08:00PM.
The Ukrainian authorities recognize neither the referendum nor the legitimacy of Crimea’s local authorities. The global community – except for Russia – also considers holding of the referendum illegal. The Crimean referendum has been declared illegal by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, Venice Commission, EU and USA. On 15 March, a resolution was submitted for the consideration of the UN Security Council calling upon all countries to not recognize the results of the referendum. 13 out of 15 delegations supported the resolution, however it was vetoed by Russia.
The Central Election Commission blocked access to the electoral register.
The Constitutional Court of Ukraine has declared illegal the Resolution of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea “On Holding of the All-Crimean Referendum” dated March 6, 2014. The judgment reads: “To recognize as non-conforming with the Constitution of Ukraine (unconstitutional) the Resolution of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea No. 1702-6/14 “On holding of the all-Crimean referendum” dated March 6, 2014”. Therefore, the Crimean parliament’s decision on the referendum has no legal effect. The Constitutional Court also ruled to halt preparations and funding for the referendum.
The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has dismissed the Crimean parliament. Members of Parliament adopted the Resolution “On the Early Termination of Powers of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea”. 278 MP’s voted in favor of the decision. The resolution became effective immediately upon adoption.
The Venice Commission has declared the “referendum” in Crimea illegal.
Council of Europe experts on constitutional law declared illegal the upcoming Crimean “referendum” on accession to Russia.
According to the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, there are many risks to holding a Crimean referendum which would comply with the democratic standards. “In principle, there is, of course, nothing bad about direct democracy. However, it requires a legitimate and democratic environment”, said Mr. Kurz. He also said that the official opinion of the Venice Commission was due to be published on March 21-22.
“Holding a referendum in Crimea will be a unilateral act aimed at serious destabilization of peace in the European region, in particular in Ukraine”, said President of the UN Security Council, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg Sylvie Lucas. The failed UN Security Council resolution to condemn the Crimean referendum, which was predictably vetoed by the Russian Federation, was aimed at “urging all parties to immediately pursue a peaceful resolution through direct political dialogue, exercise restraint, refrain from any unilateral actions and provocative rhetoric which might lead to further escalation of tension, and to fully engage in the international effort with UN mediation.”
The resolution to condemn Crimea’s referendum was supported by 13 out of 15 UN Security Council members (China abstained from the vote).
Activists of the EuromaidanSOS civil initiative are trying to monitor the conduct of the illegal referendum in Crimea. Volodymyr Khamas has called from Simferopol with an update on the illegal referendum: the turnout of voters at the polling stations he has visited is dramatically lower than reported by the pro-Russian mass media, and the organizers are visiting citizens at home to invite them to the polling places. According to the activist, information about mass mailing of invitations to the illegal referendum is exaggerated. Despite the organizers’ claims about 80% turnaround as at 02:00PM, activists say that only small numbers of senior citizens are taking part in the illegal voting. The city streets are deserted. “Little green men” with equipment and weapons have been mobilized near the Ukrainian military units of the city. The activist has also reported multiple cases of preventing mass media from covering the illegal referendum. Even the accredited journalists are denied access to the polling stations by the ‘Cossacks’. Volodymyr Khamas says that many international journalists have translators who are Russian citizens and who provide a very controversial and biased translation. Activists at some polling stations are trying to take exit polls, but it is still too early to talk about any preliminary results.
A group of observers from Feodosiya reports that, as at 02:30PM, they have visited three polling stations in the city and they haven’t seen a lot of people willing to vote. In the meantime, heads of commissions say that up till 12:00PM, 48-49% of voters have voted at the polling stations. At all polling stations, observers have noticed large additional poll books, each comprising 200 – 250 persons, in which anyone who came with a passport could be registered without any formalities. Commission members say they are using a 2004 electoral register, some say it’s the one from 2008. A lot of men wearing Russian tricolor armbands and ‘people’s defense’ badges have been seen at all voting stations. At some places, those people are in greater numbers than the voters. The observers have only seen a police officer at one polling station. All of the observers have reported violations of campaigning rules and also active “consulting” of voters by commission members who explained to them that the 1st question is in support of Russia and the 2nd is in support of Ukraine.
In Koktebel, the “security” did not let public activists enter the polling station.
Reports have come from Bakhchysarai that the polling station did open after all. Crimean Tatars are not taking part in voting. Extra poll books comprise up to 500 persons.