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Putin defends separatist drive in Crimea as legal

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday defended the separatist drive in the disputed Crimean Peninsula as in keeping with international law, as Ukraine's prime minister vowed not to relinquish "a single centimeter" of his country's territory.

Over the weekend, the Kremlin beefed up its military presence in Crimea, a part of Ukraine since 1954, and pro-Russia forces keep pushing for a vote in favor of reunification with Moscow in a referendum the local parliament has scheduled for next Sunday.

President Barack Obama has warned that the March 16 vote would violate international law. But in Moscow, Putin made it clear that he supports the referendum in phone calls with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Minister David Cameron.

"The steps taken by the legitimate leadership of Crimea are based on the norms of international law and aim to ensure the legal interests of the population of the peninsula," said Putin, according to the Kremlin.

Following an extraordinary Sunday meeting of the Ukrainian government, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced that he will fly to the United States this week for high-level talks on "resolution of the situation in Ukraine," the Interfax news agency reported.

"Our country and our people are facing the biggest challenges in the history of modern independent Ukraine," the prime minister said earlier in the day. "Will we be able to deal with these challenges? There should only be one answer to this question and that is: yes."

In an emotional climate of crisis, Ukraine on Sunday solemnly commemorated the 200th anniversary of the birth of its greatest poet, Taras Shevchenko, a son of peasant serfs who is a national hero and is considered the father of modern Ukrainian literature.

"This is our land," Yatsenyuk told a crowd gathered at the Kiev statue to Shevchenko. "Our fathers and grandfathers have spilled their blood for this land. And we won't budge a single centimeter from Ukrainian land. Let Russia and its president know this."

"We're one country, one family and we're here together with our kobzar (bard) Taras," said acting President Oleksandr Turchynov.

Later, Ukrainians in the tens of thousands massed in the Kiev's center for a multi-faith prayer meeting to display unity and honor Shevchenko. One of the speakers, former imprisoned Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, almost burst into tears as he implored the crowd to believe that not all Russians support their country's recent actions in Ukraine.

"I want you to know there is a completely different Russia," Khodorkovsky said.

Crimea, a strategic peninsula in the Black Sea, has become the flashpoint in the battle for Ukraine, where three months of protests sparked by President Victor Yanukovych's decision to ditch a significant treaty with the 28-nation European Union after strong pressure from Russia led to his downfall. A majority of people in Crimea identify with Russia, and Moscow's Black Sea Fleet is based in Sevastopol, as is Ukraine's.

In Simferopol, Crimea's capital, a crowd of more than 4,000 people turned out Sunday to endorse unification with Russia. On Lenin Square, a naval band played World War II songs as old women sang along, and dozens of tricolor Russian flags fluttered in the cold wind.

"Russians are our brothers," Crimean Parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantinov said. He asked the crowd how it would vote in the referendum a week hence.

"Russia! Russia!" came the loud answer.

"We are going back home to the motherland," said Konstantinov.

Across town, at a park where a large bust of Shevchenko stands, around 500 people, some wearing yellow-and-blue Ukrainian flags on their shoulders like capes, came out to oppose unification with Russia.

They chanted "No to the referendum!" and "Ukraine!" People handed out fliers, one of which listed the economic woes that joining Russia would supposedly cause.

"We will not allow a foreign boot that wants to stand on the heads of our children," said one of the speakers, Alla Petrova. "The people are not scared. We are not scared to come out here and speak."

Some pro-Russians drove by, shouting "Moscow, Moscow!" from their cars, but there was no trouble.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who appeared on the BBC Sunday morning, described Russia's entering Crimea as a "big miscalculation."

He also said the March 16 referendum was happening "ridiculously quickly." Hague added, "The world will not be able to regard that as free or fair."

During his conversations with Cameron and Merkel, Putin criticized the Western leaders for what he said was their failure to press the new government in Kiev to curb ultranationalist and radical forces.

But the Kremlin also said that despite their differences, the three leaders expressed an interest in reducing tensions and normalizing the situation in Ukraine as soon as possible.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
eeodjo March 10 2014 at 2:01 PM

From past history, Nikita Kruschev, a prominent Soviet Leader in his time, gave Crimea to Ukraine. For what, I am not sure. But I think because Ukraine part of the USSR during WWII, helped the Soviet Union defeat Nazi Germany. Because of the 3-months of protests by the Ukranians, sparked by former president Yanukovych's decision to "DITCH" a SIGNIFICANT TREATY with the 28-nation European Union after a STRONG PRESSURE from Russia led to Yanukovych downfall. The actions from Kiev, Ukraine infuriated Putin and even told the British and German leaders that the western leaders FAILED TO PRESS the new government in Kiev to CURB Ultanationalist and Radical forces. So now, he believes that he is within International law to claim Crimea. Since there are more pro Russians in Crimea, why not let Russia have Crimea? That small area of Crimea is NOT WORTH the trouble of starting WWIII. However, if Putin gets ambitious like Hitler did, then that would be a different scenario. It would take a heavy dose of dipomacy from both sides and I hope it would only be diplomatic discussions.

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vinneyelias7461 March 09 2014 at 4:49 PM

Innocent US citizen being bomardment under illegal covert operation in/and by US with (DEW) Directed energy weapon/Very painful by (15 years duration-

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1 reply
vinneyelias7461 vinneyelias7461 March 09 2014 at 4:57 PM

But remain to true to my country: Let the Nation of Crimea become a United Nations Mandate until negotiations bring forth positive results for all concerned-Vinney/US-

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dxjj1 March 09 2014 at 4:50 PM

Always was and will always be about the money and power . from the beginning of man until
the end and start over again?

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heylistenup1955 March 10 2014 at 12:29 PM

I wish I understood this whole thing better..... The Russians may be making a push to pull the Crimea from Ukraine into Russia,no doubt. But just 20 years ago, Russia, Ukraine, and the Crimea were all part of the Soviet Union. And for hundreds of years before that, all were part f the Russian Empire. So there is a lot of shared history here that perhaps we do not all understand. I read that 78% of the citizens in the Crimea are Russian, that the Crimean parliament voted virtually unanimously to join Russia, and a region-wide referendum is scheduled to allow the rest of the population to vote on what they want.
The relationship between Russia, Ukraine, and the Crimea is complex -- the Russian czars had their summer homes in the Crimea, Khruschev was born in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.
One thing is for sure: with the way the U.S. government is blowing hot air and making idle threats, we are going to come off as a bunch of weanies if the Crimea ends up swinging over to Russia, cuz there won't be a thing we can do about it but whine.
Kind of reminds me of when Stalin and the Pope got into it back in the 1940s with the Pope making a pronouncement on how the Soviet Union should be operating. Stalin's response was "and how many army divisions does the Pope have?"

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jareksimek March 10 2014 at 12:29 PM

O yeah and endless G8,6,4 Summit

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allstarcaps March 10 2014 at 12:27 PM

What's the last thing a mob hit man says before he puts a bullet in your brain?..."Hey, it's nuthin' personal - it's just bizness!" Business as usual in a corporate world - Merger's, Acquisition's, and Hostile Takeover's.

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YourFtr March 10 2014 at 12:26 PM

Part of my job is to make up for mental or moral deficiencies in the Obama regime.

Also, part of this is for my Presidential campaign in 2016 !!

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rlrdkb March 10 2014 at 10:06 AM

The US is normally dealing with countries that either have no stick or a very small one. Russia on the other hand has a very big stick and as a consequence the West has no idea how to handle the situation. The US took their eye off the ball diplomatically and many parts of Western Europe have become dependent on Russia's energy resources. They talk of sanctions, however too many countries have economic ties with Russia, so it will be sanctions are fine but don't mess with my piece of pie.

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2 replies
Kat4Hat rlrdkb March 10 2014 at 10:12 AM

Finally someone stood up against the “democratic” tyranny: our democratization of the world cost millions of innocent people deaths.

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Lauderdale Sand rlrdkb March 10 2014 at 10:22 AM

We didn't do so well even with the small sticks, ie. Syria, either. The problem is the Obama administration, from Obama down to those giving him advice. The problem is further compounded by the fact that Obama does not know the difference between good and bad advice. Way too much concentration by Obama on how to redistribute wealth in this country, and his latest plan to reduce the military at this time in history to fund more food stamps is a perfect example of his weak leadership.

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1 reply
Brian Hope Lauderdale Sand March 10 2014 at 10:33 AM

Thanks to Dubya's misbegotten wars in Iraq & Alfghanistan which accomplished NOTHING, Americans' will to aggressively asserts our military power has been squandered away. This leaves our President - Obama or anyone else - having to play poker against Czar Vladimir while holding nothing better than two deuces.

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jaydjet March 09 2014 at 7:55 PM

This in Russia I have always been taught would happen but I never believed it. Now I am hearing all this news. Putin used to be a BIG KGB and now he has gone back to his old tricks. This is very interesting to watch because alot of the people want to fight back. BUT, PUTIN will have his way.

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HELLO SHELDON March 10 2014 at 10:10 AM


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