Mar 17, 2014

By Jane Brown

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Crimea’s parliament has declared the Black Sea area of Ukraine, an independent state after residents there voted overwhelmingly yesterday to break away from Ukraine and join Russia.  The results of the highly contentious referendum in Ukraine’s Crimea region show that 97 percent of voters have supported joining Russia.

But Ukraine Deputy Foreign Minister Danylo Lubkivski says the referendum is not legal and that Ukraine has the support of the international community.  “This so-called referendum is illegitimate and definitely we don’t recognize it.  Speaking about the tensions between Ukraine and Russia, we tell Russia to stop this madness because everything which is going on right now in Crimea looks like an orchestrated coup d’etat.”  Yesterday’s vote came two weeks after Russian-led forces seized control of the predominantly ethnic Russian region on the Black Sea that hosts a key Russian naval base.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is joining the U.S. and European Union in flatly denouncing the referendum results and calling the vote illegal.  Harper says the vote was conducted with Crimea under illegal Russian military occupation and the results are therefore invalid.  The prime minister says Canada is working with other countries on possible sanctions against Russia and he predicts the vote will lead to the further isolation of President Vladimir Putin.

Yesterday, hundreds of protesters rallied at Toronto’s Dundas Square to join in the international condemnation of the ballot.  This Friday, Prime Minister Harper plans to travel to Ukraine to show support for the new government in Kyiv.

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