Russia locks down Crimea prior to rigged vote on secession

Russia locks down Crimea prior to rigged vote on secession

Security is tightening around Ukraine‘s Crimean peninsula ahead of Sunday’s referendum on whether to join Russia or become an independent state.

All flights to and from Crimea’s main airport – except for those from Moscow – are suspended, reports Agence France-Presse, which says that pro-Kremlin militants took over air traffic control yesterday. CNN reports that flights from Kiev, Istanbul, and a few other unnamed cities have been suspended for the rest of the week.

The Crimean deputy prime minister confirmed the flight limitations today, telling Voice of Russia that the decision was made “bearing in mind the possible influx of provocateurs,” and that “all limitations will be lifted after March 17.”

Pro-Russian forces – “a mixture of civilians wearing red armbands, Cossacks, and policemen loyal to the new pro-Russian regime” – are also checking bags and passports of travelers on Crimean roads and train stations, according to a separate AFP report.

The snap referendum in Crimea has escalated tensions between Russia, which has indicated that it will accept a Crimean vote for annexation, and the Kiev government and its Western backers, who call the vote illegal and illegitimate, in what is being called the worst East-West conflict since the cold war.

Underscoring the geopolitical stakes, the interim prime minister of Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, is in Washington today to appeal for more economic and diplomatic aid. He is due to meet President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and congressional leaders. …

While US officials have been clear that they will not intervene militarily in the area, Mr. Yatsenyuk will likely push for military aid.
Before he left Kiev, Yatsenyuk told the Ukrainian parliament that “he wanted the United States and Britain, as guarantors of a 1994 treaty that saw Ukraine give up its Soviet nuclear weapons, to intervene both diplomatically and militarily to fend off Russian ‘aggression,’ ” according to Reuters.

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