Mar 06, 2014

By Jane Brown

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Lawmakers in the embattled Crimean region of Ukraine have decided to hold a referendum March 16th on whether Crimea should become part of Russia. A member of the local Crimean legislature said today the decision is in response “the disorder and lawlessness in Kyiv.” Sergei Shuvainikov went on to say, “we will decide our future ourselves.”   Local voters will also be given the choice of deciding to remain part of Ukraine, but with enhanced local powers.  There was no immediate response from the Ukrainian central government to the vote. Ukraine’s prime minister told The Associated Press yesterday that Crimea would remain part of Ukraine.

The news comes as European Union leaders meet in Brussels to decide what sorts of sanctions they can impose on Russia over its incursion into Ukraine.  The E-U said yesterday that it has taken financial action against ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. The assets of 18 people accused of embezzling state funds in Ukraine will be frozen.  Yanukovych and his son, along with some cabinet ministers are among those named.

Canada is imposing its own sanctions against the Yanukovych regime.  The federal government is also sending two observers to join an unarmed multi-nation military mission there.  Prime Minister Harper says the Canadians will closely watch what Russian troops are doing in Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.  He calls the Russian military’s invasion of Crimea “a clear violation of international law.”

Top western and Russian diplomats met in Paris yesterday, where they are trying to de-escalate the crisis over Crimea. A French diplomat says Russia is open to international mediation, but says the country’s foreign minister refuses to meet with his Ukrainian counterpart.  NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says the alliance has decided to suspend most of its meetings with Russia.  The U-N says special envoy Robert Serry cut short his mission in Crimea after being threatened by 10 to 15 armed men, and will continue his fact-finding mission from Kyiv.

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