SIMFEROPOL – With thousands of heavily armed Russian troops occupying this perennially embattled peninsula, Crimea's Moscow-backed parliament declared on Monday, March 17, the region an independent state, following the announcement of a 96p-rcent vote in favor of quitting Ukraine.
"Results of the referendum in Crimea clearly showed that residents of Crimea see their future only as part of Russia," Sergei Neverov, deputy speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament, was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
On Monday morning, electoral officials in Crimea confirmed the official results of the peninsula's referendum.
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According to the head of the referendum commission, Mikhail Malyshev, 96.8 percent of ballots cast had voted yes for the region to join the Russian Federation.
Voter turnout was estimated at 83 percent, a high figure considering that many opponents on the motion had pledged to boycott the ballot.
After the official results, Crimea's parliament requested annexation by Moscow and to declare independence.
"The republic of Crimea appeals to the United Nations and to all countries of the world to recognize it as an independent state," a document approved by Crimea's regional assembly said on Monday, Deutsche Welle reported.
"The activities of state institutions of Ukraine on the territory of Crimea are finished and their powers, their property and their budges are transferred to the state organs of the Republic of Crimea," the statement said.
The results have sparked outcry among international powers, with Britain calling the vote a "mockery" of democracy.
"Nothing in the way that the referendum has been conducted should convince anyone that it is a legitimate exercise," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a Foreign Office statement on Sunday.
"It is a mockery of proper democratic practice."
A spokesman from Prime Minister David Cameron's Downing Street Office later said Britain did not "recognize the Crimea referendum or its outcome."
"We call on Russia to enter dialogue with Ukraine and resolve this crisis within international law," he added.
As for the US, President Barack Obama spoke to Vladimir Putin, telling the Russian president that he and his European allies were ready to impose "additional costs" on Moscow for violating Ukraine's territory.
Japan has also echoed Western nations in rejecting the referendum and called on Russia not to annex Crimea.
Away from Russian celebrations, the mood in Kiev, the Ukrainian-speaking west of the country, was somber.
"This isn't a referendum - it's a show for the Russians to legitimise taking over," Kyrylo Sergeev in the capital told Reuters.
"This could be war, not between Ukraine and Russia but maybe World War Three," Vasyl Olinyk, another man in Kiev, added.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian television channels played patriotic songs over images of tanks rolling in to reinforce the eastern border.
The head of the national security council said a Moscow plot to foment violence and justify invasion was failing to garner significant support.
"The plan has failed," Andriy Paruby said.
"Despite all the Kremlin's technical powers, we have managed to keep control."
Crimean Muslim Tatars, who make up 13 percent of Crimea's population, were fearful of a revival of the persecution they suffered for centuries under Moscow's rule.
"This is my land. This is the land of my ancestors. Who asked me if I want it or not?" said Shevkaye Assanova, a Tatar in her 40s.
"For the rest of my life I will be cursing those who brought these people here. I don't recognize this at all."
The Tatars, who have inhabited Crimea for centuries, were deported in May 1944 by Stalin, who accused them of collaborating with the Nazis.
The entire Tatar population, more than 200,000 people, was transported in brutal conditions thousands of miles away to Uzbekistan and other locations. Many died along the way or soon after arriving.
The Soviets confiscated their homes, destroying their mosques and turning them into warehouses. One was converted into a Museum of Atheism.
It was not until perestroika in the late 1980s that most of the Tatars were allowed back, a migration that continued after Ukraine became independent with the Soviet collapse in 1991.
More than 250,000 Tatars now live in Crimea, about 13 percent of its population of 2 million people.
The Tatars’ return has repeatedly touched off legal clashes over restitution of land and property, much of which is now owned by ethnic Russians.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net - Read full article here
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