Sunday, March 16, 2014

Crimea holds secession referendum - YouTube

Crimea holds secession referendum - YouTube

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Crimea is voting on whether to rejoin Russia in a referendum, that has been condemned as "illegal" by Ukraine. Sarah Toms reports.
Reuters tells the world's stories like no one else. As the largest international multimedia news provider, Reuters provides coverage around the globe and across topics including business, financial, national, and international news. For over 160 years, Reuters has maintained its reputation for speed, accuracy, and impact while providing exclusives, incisive commentary and forward-looking analysis.
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BBC News - Ukraine crisis: Crimea holds secession referendum

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16 March 2014 Last updated at 07:26 ET
James Reynolds is at a polling station in Simferopol: "There's no option on this ballot paper for people to keep things as they are"
Crimea is voting on whether to rejoin Russia or stay with Ukraine but with more autonomy.
The referendum has been condemned as "illegal" by Kiev and the West but is backed by Moscow.
Since the fall of Ukraine's pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych, Russian troops have in effect taken control of the majority ethnic-Russian region.
Voters are expected to support leaving Ukraine, but Crimean Tatars are boycotting the poll.
There are reports of high turnout at polling stations visited by the BBC in the capital, Simferopol, and mainly Tartar Bakhchisaray. But all Tartars spoken to by the BBC in Bakhchisaray said they would not vote.
Election official Mykhaylo Malyshev said there had been a "record-breaking turnout" of 44.27%, after six hours of voting.
Voting across Crimea started at 08:00 local time and will close at 20:00 (18:00 GMT).
A child votes for her mother Voters in Crimean referendum, 16 March 2014The West has declared the vote illegal while Moscow says it will respect the outcome
Voters in Crimean referendum, 16 March 2014A high turnout was reported in early voting at some polling stations
A referendum poster in Crimea reading: "On 16 March we will choose either... or..." Crimea's authorities describe the Kiev government as "fascist", urging residents to vote for union with Russia
Serving for at a Crimean polling station, 16 March 2014Food is on offer at this Simferopol polling station
On the ballot paper, voters are being asked whether they would like Crimea to rejoin Russia.
A second question asks whether Ukraine should return to its status under the 1992 constitution, which would give the region much greater autonomy.
Some 1.5m voters are eligible to cast their ballots, and the first results are expected to be released shortly after the referendum.
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Ethnic Russians form a clear majority in the region (58.5%), and many of them are expected to vote for joining Russia.
Crimea's pro-Russian Prime Minister, Sergey Aksyonov, casting his ballot, said the vote was going well.
"As you can see, people are voting freely. There are no problems at polling stations. I don't feel or see that any pressure is being applied," he told Interfax news agency.
At a busy polling station in Sevastopol, one voter, a 66-year-old woman, described the day as a holiday. "I want to go home to Russia. It's been so long since I've seen my mama," she sang to an AP reporter, using the words of a patriotic song.
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  • Autonomous republic within Ukraine
  • Transferred from Russia in 1954
  • Ethnic Russians - 58.5%
  • Ethnic Ukrainians - 24.4%
  • Crimean Tatars - 12.1%
  • Source: Ukraine census 2001
But there are also those who would like Crimea to stay part of Ukraine but with more local powers.
"In my opinion, Ukraine should have full autonomy so it can look after its own finances. There should be no pressure from the government. I favour independence," Serhiy Reshetnyk told the BBC.
'No common vision'
Russia earlier vetoed a draft UN resolution criticising the vote - the only Security Council member to do so.
The US-drafted document was supported by 13 Council members. China, regarded as a Russian ally on many issues, abstained from the poll.
Explaining Beijing's decision, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the draft resolution would "only result in confrontation and further complicate the situation".
The US and EU had warned they would impose further tough sanctions on Russian officials if the referendum went ahead.
Russia's envoy voted against the draft resolution at the UN Security Council
Russia intervened in the Crimean peninsula by seizing control of government buildings and blocking Ukraine's troops at their bases after the fall of President Yanukovych on 22 February.
However, the Kremlin officially denies deploying extra troops there, describing them as Crimea's "self-defence forces".
In other developments:
  • Kiev accused Russian forces of seizing a village, Strilkove, just north of Crimea, describing the move as "the military invasion"
  • In Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, pro-Russia demonstrators gathered in support of the Crimea referendum
  • Tens of thousands of opponents and supporters of Russia's actions in Ukraine held rival rallies in Moscow on Saturday
Continue reading the main story

Crisis timeline

  • 21 Nov 2013: President Viktor Yanukovych abandons an EU deal
  • Dec: Pro-EU protesters occupy Kiev city hall and Independence Square
  • 20 Feb 2014: At least 88 people killed in 48 hours of bloodshed in Kiev
  • 22 Feb: Mr Yanukovych flees; parliament votes to remove him and calls election
  • 27-28 Feb: Pro-Russian gunmen seize key buildings in Crimean capital Simferopol
  • 6 Mar: Crimea's parliament asks to join Russia and sets referendum for 16 March
  • 15 Mar: Russia vetoes UN Security Council resolution condemning Crimea independence referendum
The authorities in Kiev - backed by the EU and US - have condemned the Crimea vote as "illegitimate". They say a free vote is impossible under a "barrel of the gun".
The Ukrainian parliament has also voted to disband Crimea's regional assembly.
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Moscow would "respect the will of the people of Crimea".
Speaking after marathon talks in London with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Mr Lavrov admitted that both sides had "no common vision" on how to solve the crisis.
Mr Lavrov said that Russia had no plans to invade south-eastern Ukraine, despite a massive military build-up on the border with its neighbour.
The Crimean region was part of Russia until 1954.
Russia's Black Sea fleet is also based in Crimea. But Moscow has signed agreements promising to uphold Ukraine's territorial integrity.
Map of Crimea
Are you in Crimea? Are you planning to vote in the referendum? Email us at the subject heading 'Crimea vote'.
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Polling begins in Crimea’s referendum - video | World news

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Residents of Crimea go to the polls on Monday to vote in the referendum on whether to break away from Ukraine to join Russia. The vote on the status of the peninsula, which has a population of 1.5 million, is seen by much of the west as unlawful. Referendum officials say such a large voter turnout has not been seen in the region since the days of the Soviet Union

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На крымском референдуме одни и те же люди голосуют по 5-6 раз

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Журналисты, присутствующие в Крыму, отмечают большое количество нарушений, в ходе проведения референдума.
Так, некоторые жители голосуют на своем участке по несколько раз. "Жители Крыма весьма активно "голосуют" на "референдуме". Некоторые настолько активны, что проходят очередь за бюллетенями в пятый или шестой раз", пишет на своей странице в Facebook пресс-секретарь диппредставительства ЕС в Украине Давид Стулик.
Кроме того, зафиксированы случаи голосования российских граждан.
На участках в Симферополе могут голосовать все, имеющие крымскую прописку, но при этом электронная система фиксации проголосовавших отсутствует.
Российские СМИ отмечают высокую явку крымчан, "Известия" в своем "Твиттере" сообщают об образовании очередей на участках, цитируя главу комиссии Верховного совета Крыма по проведению референдума Михаила Малышева: "Люди массово приходят на участки с самого утра, такого не было со времен СССР".
Официально же власти отмечают "высокую явку". Председатель избирательной комиссии Севастополя Валерий Медведев отметил, что с утра отмечается высокая активность голосования на референдуме о статусе Крыма и нарушений не зафиксировано.
"Все 192 участка открылись вовремя, голосование проходит в нормальном режиме, нарушений не зафиксировано. Несмотря на дождь, который с утра идет в Севастополе, активность избирателей достаточно высока, люди стоят в очереди, чтобы проголосовать", - сказал Медведев в воскресенье.
Как известно, в воскресенье, 16 марта, в АР Крым и Севастополе проходит общекрымский референдум, на котором выносится вопрос о присоединении полуострова к Российской Федерации. Согласно решению Верховного совета АРК на референдум вынесены "следующие альтернативные вопросы": 1) Вы за воссоединение Крыма с Россией на правах субъекта Российской Федерации? 2) Вы за восстановление действия Конституции Республики Крым 1992 года и за статус Крыма как части Украины?".

Crimea's controversial referendum: Voters flock to the polls

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Published on Mar 16, 2014
Queues form at polling stations in Crimea as the region starts voting in a referendum on seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia. . Report by Sophie Foster.
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Page 2

Ukraine Accuses Russia Of 'Military Invasion'

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Russian forces have reportedly deployed outside of Crimea ahead of a controversial
vote as deadly violence flared in east Ukraine.

[HD] Gustav Mahler - Symphony Nº 1 "Titan" | Leonard Bernstein, Vienna Philharmonic

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Gustav Mahler - Symphony Nº 1
Vienna Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein
00:42 I Langsam. Schieppend. Wie ein Naturlaut.Im Anfang sehr gemachlich
16:22 II Krafting bewet, doch nicht zu schnell - Trio. Recht gemachlich
25:07 III Feier und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen
35:38 IV Sturmisch bewegt

Ukraine ministers accuse Russia of provoking fatal clashes

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Foreign minister says he won't respond to 'Kremlin-orchestrated provocations' after two die in Kharkiv shootout
Ukraine's acting foreign minister, Andriy Deshchyta, said he won't respond to "Kremlin-orchestrated provocations" in the east of the country in which several people have been killed.
Two people were died and several wounded in a shootout in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv late on Friday night, according to Ukraine's acting interior minister, Arsen Avakov.
"We have studied the experience of Georgia. We need to be more creative," Deshchyta told a press conference in Kiev on Saturday.
Asked if he expected Russia to invade eastern Ukraine next week, once the referendum in Crimea was over, he said: "Perhaps you should ask this to Putin. We are ready to stand up to aggression. We are in constant talks with our partners. Our position is to solve this crisis using peaceful means."
In the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, Georgia's then president responded to cross-border shelling from the rebel province of South Ossetia by ordering a major military attack on the enclave, which in turn triggered a full-blown Russian invasion.
Deshchyta said: "Since there is a kind of diplomatic war between Ukraine and Russia we can't reveal all our plans."
He said the new government in Kiev was prepared to discuss greater autonomy for Crimea, but only with the proper legal authorities there, and not while there were "guns on the streets". He described Sunday's referendum as "totally illegal".
Avakov wrote on his official Facebook page early on Saturday that around 30 people "from both sides" had been arrested during a shootout late on Friday.
The Russian state news agency Itar-Tass reported that shots had been fired from the offices of the far-right Ukrainian nationalist group Right Sector.
But the Ukrainian authorities accused Russia of provoking the gunfight.
Kharkiv's governor accused Russian activists of fomenting violence and urged people not to be goaded into fighting back.
"Tonight's incident was a well planned provocation by pro-Russian activists," said Ihor Baluta.
He said people on a minibus had deliberately provoked a dispute with a group holding a pro-Russia demonstration before driving off again.
Pro-Russian activists came in pursuit and found the van parked by a building containing offices of Ukrainian nationalist groups, and fighting began.
"Hired provocateurs from a neighbouring country are staging professional provocations," Avakov said. He accused allies of the ousted president Viktor Yanukovich of financing unrest in eastern Ukraine, aided by "extremist Russian forces".
Violence has escalated in Ukraine's east in recent days, as pro-Russia demonstrators have seized government buildings and clashed with supporters of the new Kiev government. At least one person died and 17 were wounded in clashes in the city of Donetsk on Thursday.
The violence overnight follows the failure on Friday of 11th-hour talks in London between the US secretary of state, John Kerry, and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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Ukraine cobbles together an army as fears of a Russian invasion grow

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Ukraine 2014 | Crimean Tatars Face Uncertainty as Russia Tightens Its Grip | The New York Times 

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Seventy years after Stalin brutally deported thousands of Crimean Tatars to Central Asia, the descendants of those who returned fear repression as Russia tightens its grip on the peninsula....
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In Moscow, tens of thousands turn out to protest Russian intervention in Ukraine 

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MOSCOW — Opposition to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine sparked an unexpectedly large protest march here Saturday, as tens of thousands of demonstrators waving Ukrainian, Russian and European Union flags chanted “No war!” and “Russia without Putin.”
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Russians Rally Against Invasion Of Ukraine 

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Updated 11:40 ET
A rally in central Moscow against Russia’s intervention in Ukraine attracted tens of thousands of protestors Saturday, a day before Crimea prepares to hold a referendum on officially acquiescing to Kremlin rule.
Protestors waved Ukrainian and Russian flags and shouted slogans often heard in Kiev during anti-government demonstrations, urging Russian President Vladimir Putin to withdraw his troops from Crimea and stop menacing eastern Ukrainian provinces with large troop formations, Agence France Presse reports.
Marchers carried signs reading “Putin, get out of Ukraine” and called an invasion of the country a “fratricidal war,” referring to the close cultural bonds between the two Slavic countries.
Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution declaring Sunday’s referendum in Crimea illegal, and Putin’s close ally China abstained, heightening the Kremlin’s isolation, the Associated Press reports.
The large turnout indicated a measure of popular dissent with Putin’s tactics, and reflected the results of a Kremlin-sponsored poll last month that showed 73 percent of Russians oppose interfering in Kiev. Russian police, who often downplay attendance at protests, said only 3,000 showed up to demonstrate.
Crimea is preparing to hold a referendum Sunday that would lead to its annexation by the Kremlin. Western leaders have called the referendum illegitimate, saying the presence of Russian troops in Crimea has violated Ukrainian sovereignty and caused an atmosphere of intimidation in the peninsula.

Thousands March in Moscow to Protest Crimea Vote

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Tens of thousands have gathered in downtown Moscow in the largest
anti-government demonstration since 2012, protesting against Sunday’s Kremlin-backed referendum in
Crimea on whether to break away from Ukraine and merge with Russia.

Russia Vetoes U.N. Resolution on Crimea

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Proposed by the United States, the Security Council measure declaring Sunday’s planned secession vote illegal received one no vote. China abstained.

Crimea as consolation prize: Russia faces some big costs over Ukrainian region 

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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted Ukraine. He’s getting Crimea. Is that a
prize or an encumbrance?
If Ukraine had come under the Kremlin’s sway, Russia would have expanded its economic reach, pushed the European Union back and likely gained control of the pipelines feeding Russian natural gas to the West.
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Moscow Raises the Pressure in Ukraine

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Ukraine accused Russia of sending troops outside the Crimean peninsula and onto the Ukrainian mainland on Saturday, as Moscow said it received calls to "protect peaceful civilians" in eastern Ukraine and is considering the requests.

Why London turns a blind eye to Russia's adventurism | Nick Cohen 

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Threats to Russia over its actions in Ukraine are undermined by the warm welcome its billionaires continue to receive in the west
The kleptocracies that have replaced the old Soviet empire are vulnerable, I wrote on these pages as the Ukraine crisis began. The freezing of their assets was a non-violent response to the threat to the integrity of a sovereign state that had not committed genocide or developed weapons of mass destruction; that had not threatened to invade a neighbour or provided any other casus belli beyond having a revolution against a fantastically corrupt government.
We might have threatened Putin's elite support and made his backers realise that they had to choose between supporting Russian adventurism or holding on to their loot. I believed we had a fair idea of what their choice would have been.
Russia is exposed. Putin's central bank estimated that two-thirds of the $56bn moved out of Russia in 2012 might have been the proceeds of crimes, bribes to state officials and tax fraud. English bankers and lawyers, British and Dutch tax havens in the Caribbean, and estate agents in Mayfair, the Cote d'Azur and Manhattan launder the loot.
Never mind asset freezes and visa bans; a vigorous investigation into immoral earnings by the European and north American authorities would have spread panic among the crime bosses. David Cameron sniffed weakness. He warned Moscow at the beginning of March that Russia would pay "significant costs" if it did not back down.
The crisis escalates today as Crimea votes on an anschluss with Russia under the eyes of Putin's troops. The failure to date to impose sanctions on or make believable threats against Russian assets tells us much about Britain and the wider west, none of it flattering.
It isn't certain what choice our rulers will make if they have to choose between opposing Russian adventurism and holding on to Russian loot. Cameron may surprise us. But as things stand, it appears that the love of money is not confined to the Kremlin. Those who covet it, those who have pocketed or hope to pocket it, are as much in its thrall as the oligarchs who possess it.
Consider the extent of Russian financial power in Britain. Soviet-born billionaires occupy three of the top five slots in the Sunday Times Rich List. One owns the satirically titled Independent newspaper and the London Evening Standard. Another owns Chelsea Football Club. More Russians have received special "tier one" investor visas than the citizens of any other country. The first-class visas allow the British state, which bellows about its toughness on immigration, to sell residency rights at £1m a pop.
BP, a struggling corporation with many connections to Downing Street, needs Putin's favours. The Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010 forced the company to freeze dividends and sell assets worth $38bn, including half of all its offshore platforms and refineries, to meet the $42bn costs of the clean-up. The company's involvement in Russia adds nearly 1m barrels a day to its oil production. So dependent on Moscow's goodwill has it become that the Economist speculated that it "now exerts pressure on the British government to pursue a Russia-friendly policy".
Analysts find it harder to be precise about the scale of Russian money flowing through the British financial system: the City and accountability are not even nodding acquaintances. But Thomson Reuters calculated that companies from Russia and former Soviet states have raised $82.6bn in London in the past two decades, large chunks of which the City creamed off as fees.
The "English" courts are easier to monitor because cases must take place in public. Lawyers often compare themselves to taxi drivers, who will carry anyone who can pay the fare. I find a comparison to an older profession more satisfying. Whichever one you care to use, Russian money proves its truth. The lowest moment in recent history of the libel courts came when eminent solicitors and one of London's most expensive QCs tried to sue the London-based investment fund manager Bill Browder.
He first developed the use of asset freezes as a weapon against Putin, in his case because Russian gangsters and state officials were complicit in the murder of his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky. Our legal profession was not bothered in the slightest that Magnitsky was a better and braver lawyer than they would or could ever be; a man who had died in a Moscow prison for the "crime" of exposing a gigantic tax fraud. That their case that a former Russian secret policeman had the right to sue Browder in London was deemed by the judge to be hopeless did not appear to concern them either. They still picked up hundreds of thousands of pounds in fees.
Between March 2008 and March 2013, 61.6% of litigants fighting in London commercial courts came from outside England and Wales. As I've said before, the government is denying access to justice to the native poor and working class with its legal aid cuts. Extortionate legal fees have become too much for the middle class to bear. But as it closes the courts to the British, the coalition is following a deliberate policy of turning them over to the global oligarchy, in the hope that fat fees for QCs will produce tax revenues for the Treasury.
If you look at the luxury market, the picture is the same. Art, prime London property, the finances of several Premier League clubs and the private schools are trapped in a dependency culture. As is the British right.
The Eurosceptic dream can sound attractive when you have had one beer too many. Let us turn our back on the collective security of the European Union, be the great trading nation we once were, and send our ships out on to the wide blue oceans. They forget that Victorian Britain was a great power as well as a great trading nation. It was strong enough to put security interests beyond economic interests. Today, Cameron worries not only about losing Russian business, but the chilling example sanctions would set to the buyers from China and other dictatorships shopping in London. Would they be so willing to spend if they saw the authorities using Moscow gold as a weapon in a diplomatic crisis?
A comparison with 1914 is instructive. At the start of the First World War, Herbert Asquith and David Lloyd George were so determined to maintain the European balance of power they were prepared to risk bankrupting the British empire. We will find out later today whether David Cameron and George Osborne are prepared to risk bankrupting a Mayfair estate agent a century on. © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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Page 4

Russian Troops Seize Gas Plant Beyond Crimean Border, Ukraine Says 

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The troop advance, Russia’s most provocative since its forces took over Crimea two weeks ago, came one day before Crimea was set to vote on whether to secede from Ukraine.

A Turbulent Priest Awaits The Conquest of Crimea

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Archbishop Kliment began evacuating the holy icons from his church about two weeks ago, as soon as he realized that the region of Crimea, where he serves as the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox faith, would soon fall to the Russians. He wasn’t so much afraid of looting or arson from the Russian soldiers occupying his region of Ukraine, although that concerned him too. He was preparing for nothing less than the nullification of the Ukrainian Orthodox church. Under Russian rule, “we will simply be liquidated,” he says. “Our church is an enemy to the order that Russia would impose here, and our churches would be either looted or in the best case forced to close.”

Those are not empty fears. Next week, Russia will get its chance to annex the entire Crimean peninsula, whose referendum on Sunday is stacked in favor of full secession from Ukraine. The result isn’t likely to do terrible and lasting damage to Ukraine’s economy or demographics. Crimea is a depressed region, connected to the mainland by only two roads, and the majority of its two million people are ethnic Russians who will likely welcome the chance to rejoin their historical homeland. But for Ukraine’s people, their security and their sense of national pride, the loss of Crimea will be devastating. A generation since Ukraine won its independence from Moscow after the fall of the Soviet Union, it will again have to confront its own subversion, as well as the theft of its territorial jewel, the home of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Ukrainians and the birthplace of their religion.

The country remains, in many ways, a hostage of its own geography and history. Ukraine shares a wide-open border with Russia all along its east and south, and in the past week, around 80,000 Russian troops have surrounded it, according to Ukraine’s security council. If the government in Kiev uses force to defend Crimea from annexation, Russia is almost certain to launch a broader invasion. On Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry even warned in a statement that it “reserves the right” to take parts of eastern Ukraine “under its protection.” The stick-up job implied in this threat is simple: give up Crimea and Russia may hold off on taking anything else.
“That is what we fear most,” says Archbishop Kliment, sitting in his stripped-down church in the Crimean capital of Simferopol. “If they trade us for peace in the rest of Ukraine, that would be impossible to forgive. You cannot abandon your land and your people. You just can’t.” But Kiev doesn’t have much choice.
Since Ukraine’s revolution brought a new government to power three weeks ago, its diplomatic relations with Russia have broken down. Moscow has condemned the new leaders in Kiev as extremists and radicals, while American and European efforts to broker a peace deal have gottennowhere. No one seems willing or able to stop Russia from exacting a heavy price for Ukraine’s sudden turn toward the West, and few will have to pay a larger share of that price than Archbishop Kliment.
His church, at least in the eyes of Crimea’s pro-Russian rulers, is a palpable threat, a unifying voice against Russia’s dominance of this part of the Slavic world. To make matters worse, Kliment played an active role in Ukraine’s pro-Western uprising this winter. In January, he was among the priests who formed a human shield between the protesters in Kiev and the riot police, watching rubber bullets and stun grenades buzzing around their heads as the troops surged forward. In February, Kliment saw those same police forces gun down dozens of protesters in Kiev’s Maidan square, the epicenter of the revolution, and then presided over many of their funerals.
But his greatest crime against Russia’s interests in Ukraine came on the day of that massacre, Feb. 20, when he stood on the stage in the center of the Maidan and read out the declaration of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Its clergy, led by Patriarch Filaret, had decided to renounce the ruling government in Ukraine, and the following day, that government fell to the revolution. For him, as messenger, that was the highpoint of a gruesome winter of rebellion. His memory of the funerals and the piles of bodies have been blurred by what he calls the moral panic of those days. But he remembers the declaration crisply. More than a 10,000 demonstrators roared in approval and then joined him in silent prayer on the Maidan. “It was an indescribable joy,” he recalls of that moment. “For all of us it was like a breath of air after a time of such suffocating darkness.”
For sympathizers of the revolution, that pronouncement turned Kliment and his fellow clergymen into national heroes, but it also brought them into open conflict with Moscow. Their religious schism, the split between the Kiev and the Moscow branches of Orthodoxy, was nothing new. It began almost 20 years ago, soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the head of the faith in Ukraine, Patriarch Filaret, demanded more autonomy from his superiors in Moscow to develop an independent branch of the church in Ukraine. The clerical council in Russia, known as the Holy Synod, not only refused that request but deemed it heretical, and the Moscow Patriarchate has been building a rival network of churches across Ukraine ever since.
Because of its history, a crucial battleground in this feud has always been Crimea. The peninsula’s ties to the early Christian church go all the way back to the First Century, when Pope Clement I, a contemporary of the Apostles, is thought to have been exiled by the Romans to the stone quarries of Crimea as punishment for his devotion to Christ. His skull, which is stored in the Monastery of the Caves in the center of Kiev, has always been one of the holiest relics of the Orthodox Church. Beyond that, Crimea is where the first Russian ruler was baptized. In the year 988, Vladimir the Great, the patron saint of Russian President Vladimir Putin, accepted Christianity in what is now the city of Sevastopol, home of Russia’s Black Sea navel fleet.
On its own, none of that history explains why Putin sees this land as part of his rightful dominion. He seems much more concerned with the strategic and political benefits of his incursion into Crimea. But the fact that this peninsula is the cradle of Russian Christianity goes a long way toward explaining why Putin guards his claim to it so jealously.
Throughout his 14 years in power, Putin has placed the Russian Orthodox Church at the core of his vision of a national revival, and the Church has in turn invested heavily into the construction of churches in Crimea. Dozens of them now dot the peninsula, with the golden domes of the newest one being built just beside the headquarters of the breakaway government in Simferopol. Its rivals from the Ukrainian Orthodox clergy have only been allowed to build 15 churches in Crimea, none of them in conformation with the architectural traditions of their faith.
The chambers of Archbishop Kliment (who took his clerical name from Pope Clement I) are inside a former military academy in Simferopol, just down the block from the central bazaar. And he does not even own that property; it is leased to him by the Crimean government, which is now under the controlof pro-Russian separatists. So next week, if Russia moves ahead with annexation, his denomination of the faith may find itself pushed out of Crimea entirely. For that he blames the government in Kiev as much as he blames Russia. “I won’t go back to Kiev if it betrays us,” he says. “Returning to a country that abandons a part of its people doesn’t make sense to me. I would rather become a refugee somewhere else, or a slave here to the Russians.”
Such fears have troubled all of Crimea’s ethnic minorities, and in the past two weeks, the Kremlin has tried hard to calm the local Tatars, a Muslim ethnic group that makes up about 12% of its population. President Putin even spoke on the phone with one of the leaders of the Tatar community on Wednesday, promising that they would be protected under Russian rule. But Moscow has made no such gestures toward the ethnic Ukrainian minority in Crimea, and certainly not to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, whose adherents make up about 10% of the population.
That amounts to as many as 200,000 believers, who are considered members of a heretical sect in the eyes of the Russian Orthodox Church. Last week, TIME asked a representative of the Moscow Patriarchate in Crimea to respond to the fears of their Ukrainian rivals. The response was to deny that they even exist. “There is no schism,” says Vitaly Liskevich, a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church in Crimea. “The people you’re talking about are self-proclaimed priests. In reality there is only one Orthodox Church, and that is the only one that will exist.”
Archbishop Kliment has grown resigned to that fact. The iconostasis in his church, the wall of icons that separates the altar from the congregation, has already been dismantled and its paintings hidden in the homes of his friends. The evacuation, as he calls it, has given him a level of protection from a Russian seizure of the church, but it has not helped him calm his congregants. At his most recent Sunday Mass, the worshipers listened calmly to his sermon, but when they came up to him afterward for solace, “hysteria broke out,” he says. “First one began to weep, and then the second and the third, like a chain reaction, and I had little to offer in the way of counsel. Ukraine has abandoned us, and we are left with no protection except, as ever, from the will of God.”

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Russia Vetoes UN Crimea Resolution, China Abstains

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Russia has vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have urged countries not to recognize the results of a Sunday referendum in Ukraine's Crimea region. Russia was the only Security Council member to vote against the measure on Saturday, while China abstained. The 13 other council members backed the measure.The resolution would have affirmed Ukraine's territorial integrity by declaring Sunday's Crimea referendum could "have no validity." China's...

McCain: Russian Invasion of Eastern Ukraine Would Have 'Enormous Consequences'

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U.S. Republican Senator John McCain says a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine would be a breach of "enormous consequences" and could bring a very sharp response by the United States and Europe.McCain spoke from Kyiv Saturday as part of a U.S. Senate delegation meeting with Ukraine's interim leaders and the opposition.The senator said he is deeply concerned about reports of Russian troops moving closer to the eastern Ukrainian border and conducting military exercises. McCain...

Will Malaysia Airlines MH370 finally give up its terrible secret?

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The Boeing 777 continued to send signals to satellites for more than six hours after its last message: 'All right, good night.' As 14 countries continue the hunt, new questions are being asked
After a week of false leads, U-turns, wild speculation and outright contradictions, it was hard to believe there could be any more surprises in the hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight.
But when Malaysia's prime minister, Najib Razak, finally appeared before the media on Saturday afternoon – almost 45 minutes later than scheduled and for the first time since flight MH370 went missing seven days before – his words were startling.
Not only did investigators believe the plane had been deliberately diverted after its communication systems were switched off, but they believed it had been sending signals to satellites from air or ground as late as 8.11am on Saturday morning, more than six-and-a-half hours after it had lost contact with air control staff and 45 minutes after the Boeing 777 had been declared missing in a statement from the airline.
That final ping came from one of two lengthy air corridors stretching as far as Kazakhstan to the north or the southern Indian Ocean – around western Australia – to the south; by that point, if still in the air, the plane would probably have been almost out of fuel. The initial search area in the South China Sea was no longer relevant, but an even vaster swath of land and sea was now in play.
Within the central mystery, of where flight MH370 ended – and why – lie two more puzzles. How could a passenger jet, 74 metres long and with a 61-metre wingspan, apparently disappear for six hours before anyone raised the alarm? And how could it cross the airspace of multiple countries in a region sensitive about security without anyone noticing?
Each day of the investigation has brought fresh suspicions, theories and facts, many debunked in less than 24 hours. "We are going through a roller coaster and feel helpless and powerless," one woman waiting for news of a relative told Associated Press.
Were it not for the tragedy of the 239 passengers and crew missing aboard the plane, it would seem like the stuff of a Hollywood thriller.
"A normal investigation becomes narrower with time, as new information focuses the search," the minister of transport Hishammuddin Hussein had said on Friday. "But this is not a normal investigation."
It was 12.41am on Saturday 8 March when flight MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur, bound for Beijing. The 227 passengers were in experienced hands: Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah had served the airline for 23 years; his first officer Fariq Abdul Hamid for seven. Around 40 minutes later came the last verbal contact with the plane, as Malaysian air traffic control told the flight deck that their next contact would be with Vietnamese authorities. "All right, goodnight," was the reply. It is not clear which of the pilots was speaking.
Vietnamese authorities say the flight never entered their airspace; according to another pilot, they asked him to relay a message to MH370. Whether they took any further action is unknown. What is certain is that it was not until 7.24am, almost an hour after the plane's scheduled arrival time of 6.30am, that the airline announced it was missing.
The early hours of the search were chaotic, but they often are. A persistent but false rumour suggested there had been an emergency landing in southern China; it appeared sufficiently credible for Malaysia Airlines to investigate.
The circumstances were so unusual – good weather; the lack of a distress call; the experience of the pilots; and the strong safety records of both the Boeing 777 and Malaysia Airlines – that the possibility of a deliberate disappearance surfaced quickly. Some cited the possibility of a pilot suicide – thought to have happened in at least two air crashes – with whoever was at the controls carrying out a deliberate nosedive into the South China Sea. But the way that data from the plane stopped suddenly suggested to many a possible explosion or perhaps a catastrophic failure. Experts predicted the plane or its wreckage would be found within a day or so
Then, as authorities began to break the news to families, it emerged that two listed passengers were not on board. Their passports had been stolen a year or more before and were being used by others. Speculation of a hijacking soared, only to be curtailed on Tuesday when Interpol said it believed the young Iranians using those passports were not terrorists but seeking asylum in Europe.
On the same day, the inspector general of Malaysian police announced that his officers were looking at several possible causes of the disappearance: hijacking, sabotage, or the crew and passengers' personal or psychological problems.
But officials stressed they were examining all possible explanations and Malaysia Airlines said the plane might have turned back towards Kuala Lumpur, suggesting to many that technical problems might have prompted an attempted return to its departure point.
By now, however, people were treating new announcements with wariness at best, given the confusions and outright contradictions; on Tuesday, the police chief said that five people had checked in but not boarded; the following day, the transport minister insisted no one had done so. Officials brushed crucial questions aside, described them as "too sensitive" or on occasion seemed to simply misunderstand them.
"There have been misinformation and corrections from Malaysian authorities on the whereabouts of MH370," Peter Goelz, former managing director of the US government's National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), told CNN, calling it the worst disaster management he had seen. "At best, Malaysian officials have thus far been poor communicators; at worst, they are incompetent.
Hishammuddin dismissed such criticism: "It's only confusion if you want it to be seen as confusion," he maintained.The crisis has revealed inefficiencies within the Malaysian system. It has also reflected enduring mistrust between many of the 14 countries involved in the search, unused to that level of co-operation. Malaysia appeared reluctant to disclose its radar data to neighbours; they were exasperated by the lack of clarity over the aircraft's path.
Suspicion remains that Malaysians were aware that the plane had headed west long before they announced it; in early statements Malaysia Airlines repeatedly said last contact with the plane was at 2.40am, long after the transponder was turned off but coinciding with a possible military radar sighting announced much later.
It has also become evident that while Malaysia remains in charge of the investigation, American expertise and capability in areas such as satellite technology is proving critical to the investigation's development. Staff from the Federal Aviation Administration and the NTSB, which investigates all domestic US air crashes, have been joined by commercial experts from Boeing and British flight investigators.
US leaks may also have proved critical to pushing the Malaysians towards greater transparency: theWall Street Journal was the first to raise the possibility that the plane had flown for several hours after its last conflict, citing unnamed US sources.
But since the diversion is believed to be deliberate, unravelling the mystery of flight MH370 is now likely to rely as much on deciphering human clues as technical data: who was responsible and what did they want?
Whether the plane was diverted by one of the crew or a passenger is unknown. If, as seems likely, it was the captain or first officer flying, it is also possible they were acting under duress.
Experts say that disabling the communications systems would have required specialist knowledge not just of aircraft per se but of the Boeing 777 specifically.
Another key question is whether the systems were shut off before or after air traffic control last spoke to the pilots. The calm "Goodnight" from the cockpit clearly raises questions if the systems had already been disabled.
The pilot who said he tried to reach the flight at the behest of Vietnamese air traffic control shortly after 1.30am – when the transponders were already off – said he could hear only mumbling amid heavy interference, but believed he was probably speaking to the first officer.
The route the plane took also required significant navigational experience. And the timing of the diversion is also striking: just as the responsibility of Malaysia's air traffic control officials gave way to Vietnam's. The perfect opportunity for the plane to go missing with minimal attention.
However, while cockpit security was tightened after 9/11, it is known that the first officer had invited young women to watch him fly on at least one occasion. The plane had also just reached cruising altitude, at which point a pilot might leave the cockpit for a break.
With more than 150 of its citizens on board, China has stepped up pressure for answers: "We ask that the Malaysian side provide more comprehensive and accurate information," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.
Harsher was a commentary from China's state news agency Xinhua on the "painfully belated" release of information: "Given today's technology, the delay smacks of either dereliction of duty or reluctance to share information in a full and timely manner."
But extracting information on the plane's location from the signals it sent to satellites is a highly complex task - as the potential range of its last position indicates.
Officials in the US have suggested that the plane is more likely to have taken a southerly course, otherwise military radars in a highly sensitive region would have picked it up – though Malaysia has acknowledged its own military made no attempt to identify MH370 when it was picked up by radar on the western coast.
If MH370 did indeed turn south, there are few obvious places it could have landed in the Indian Ocean. It's more likely, officials suggest, that it crashed into the sea. There, the sheer expanse of water and an average depth of more than two miles make the task of tracking debris unimaginably difficult.
For relatives, the report of a deliberate diversion has raised fading hopes that those on board might still be alive. But a week after MH370 went missing, they face the cruel prospect that its ultimate fate may never be known. © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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Amid vote preparations in Ukraine’s Crimea, allegations of poll rigging, intimidation 

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SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — Officials in the Crimean capital tried with mixed success Saturday to put a professional face on arrangements for the hastily planned referendum on joining Russia, and they shifted the tone of their message from overtly pro-Russian propaganda to messages and events that stressed the democratic legitimacy of the poll.
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