Crimea’s parliament declares independence; voters choose to join Russia.

SIMFEROPOL — Crimea’s parliament has officially declared the peninsula’s independence from Ukraine, after 96.6% of the voters chose to join Russia yesterday in a referendum.

The parliament and the pro-Russia government led by Sergey Aksyonov have already started the procedures for the annexation of Crimea by Russia. The government has announced that Ukrainian laws no longer apply to the now independent territory and that the Ukrainian state properties now fully belong to Crimea. Moreover, the ruble will be the official currency, along with the Ukrainian hryvnia, while the Crimean parliament has changed its name from the Ukrainian “rada” to the Russian “duma”. On the March 30, Crimea will also adopt Moscow’s time zone, moving from GMT +1 to GMT+2.

But so far, it is the military and diplomatic aspects that are worrying everyone, including Russia. Right after Crimea’s declaration of independence, the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev has formally approved the partial mobilisation of 40,000 reservists, in response to what it called “a war-time situation”.

Furthermore, there is the extremely delicate case of the Ukrainian military bases in Crimea, which the newly independent nation wants to dismantle. It has been reported that pro-Russia militias have been encircling the Ukrainian bases for weeks, cutting the soldiers from the outside world. The Minister of Defence, Igor Tenyukh, has recently said that the Ukrainian soldiers will stay in Crimea in spite of the referendum’s result, which neither Kiev nor the EU and Washington recognise.

The EU and the US, who have defined the referendum as illegitimate and illegal, are planning to impose sanctions directly on Crimea and some Russian officials, and indirectly to Russia itself. The EU foreign ministers will decide today on the sanctions. However, the EU’s High Representative for foreign affairs and security, Catherine Ashton, said that the sanctions need also to consider the “importance of maintaining a good relationship with Russia”.

The White House has declared that although there is still a diplomatic solution to this crisis, the USA and its partners are determined to impose further costly sanctions on Russia, unless Moscow withdraws its troops from the Ukrainian territory. Recent updates report that President Putin will speak in front of the Russian parliament tomorrow afternoon, as the parliament will start debating on how to annex Crimea.

Stefano DucCorrespondent (Europe)

Image Courtesy: By Spiridon Ion Cepleanu (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons