Mar 07, 2014

By Jane Brown

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As diplomatic efforts continue to resolve the crisis in Ukraine, the speaker for Russia’s upper house of parliament says Crimea would be welcome as an “equal subject” in Russia if the region votes to leave Ukraine in next week’s referendum.  Valentina Matvienko met with the head of Crimean parliament today to discuss the region’s possible accession to Russia. The parliament of Crimea voted yesterday to move the referendum date up by two weeks, to March 16, and to include a question on joining Russia.  Russia’s parliament is planning to review a bill as early as next week that would speed up Crimea’s integration into Russia. Crimea would be the first territory to officially join Russia since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

But the international community is rejecting the legitmacy of the results of a referendum in Crimea.  Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says it’s laughable.  “Russia has invaded Crimea.  They’re occupying it with military force.  No referendum can have any validity while that is taking place.”  Baird’s comments echoed those of U.S. President Barrack Obama who says “the proposed referendum on the future of Crimea violates the Ukrainian constitution and international law.”

U.S. President Barack Obama is continuing diplomatic efforts to try and broker a solution to the crisis in Ukraine.  Word out of the White House is that Obama spoke on the phone with Japan’s Prime Minister late last night about the importance of preserving Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  The two leaders noted there is still an opportunity for Russia to resolve the situation diplomatically.  The two leaders also agreed to work bilaterally and through the International Monetary Fund to support the government in Kyiv as Ukraine works to stabilize its economy and prepare for May elections.

In another development, it turned out to be nothing, but Austria’s Interior Ministry said a threat was received of a planned terror attack on a plane carrying Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk home, after he addressed European Union leaders in Brussels.  SWAT teams boarded the Austrian Airlines flight after its scheduled landing in Vienna last night, and found nothing out of the ordinary.  Yatsenyuk then took his scheduled connection to Kyiv.

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