Referendum in Crimea: Was Crimean Referendum a democratic statement or a democratic sham?

Before the final results of the Crimean referendum were announced, people were already starting to celebrate Crimea’s reconsolidation with Moscow and the Russian Federation. The final verdict confirmed all previous predictions and polls. 96% of Crimean citizens decided to rejoin Russia.

Early results on Sunday evening – based on 50% of votes – showed 95.5% of votes in favour of Crimea joining Russia. Vladimir Putin told Barack Obama in a phone call that the referendum is ‘legal’ and he will accept the decision of Crimeans.

The majority of Crimeans were over the moon with the results. For some it was a dream, for others, including many Ukrainians, it was a nightmare.

“We have lost Crimea. I do not believe that we have lost it forever, but it won’t be easy,” said Maxim Sochiskiy from Kiev. “We should not give up people of Crimea, especially those who still stay loyal to Ukraine. We must not betray them,”

“I don’t believe that referendum was fair and based on equal rights of people to express their opinion. Thus it is noting to do with democracy. I find it difficult to talk about, I have never thought that this situation could ever happen in my own country.”

The referendum was surrounded by controversies and disputes from the beginning. The majority of political leaders, including Barack Obama, David Cameron and the European Parliament, have made it clear that they will not recognise the results of the referendum because it is breaking the international law.

“We have lost Crimea. I do not believe that we have lost it forever, but it won’t be easy.”

Crimean Tatars – according to the 2001 census 10% of the Crimean population – announced that they will boycott the referendum by not voting. As a result of World War II the Crimean Tatars fell victims of the Soviet Union. Many of them moved to Ukraine, worried once again about their safety and lives, caused by their rich and tragic history and the lack of democracy that originally gave them freedom.

Although expected, Vladimir Putin’s decision to accept the vote of the Crimean parliament to be annexed to the Russian Federation caused instant reactions from other countries. Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that as a result of Putin’s decision, Russia will have to face “economic and political consequences.” This means that Moscow is facing potential sanctions such as travel bans or asset freezes.

Pablo Veyrat, being able to draw upon his post-Soviet expertise, believes Russia has taken over and it will be difficult to challenge Moscow, because they have installed a puppet legislature, “Russia is manipulative,” he said.

“The results of the referendum reflect the people’s will as much as average Russian elections normally do. I don’t see the condition for a democratic process: anonymous military controlling strategic points, the press being harassed and opposition demonstrations disrupted by angry young men.

“Russia created the crisis in order to annex Crimea. The referendum is just an attempt to legitimise an obvious land-grab.”

Many Crimeans and Ukrainians decided to boycott the referendum for that reason. Crimea was taken away from them like it’s a toy, something worthless. They decided to scream for help, they decided to fight for their country.

“Russia created the crisis in order to annex Crimea. The referendum is just an attempt to legitimise an obvious land-grab.”

Igor Yugay, who lives in the capital of Crimea, Simferopol, struggles to understand the current situation. The referendum was ‘illegitimate’ and recognising it in any way is an ‘act’ against democracy.

“I was born and grew up in a country called Ukraine and lived here for 22 years, I’m not anti-Russian, but I do not like the idea that tomorrow I can wake up in a different state and trips to other cities such as Lvov, Kiev or Odessa would become trips to another country, where Ukrainians will look at me as a traitor and a separatist.”

“Today we are Ukrainians, tomorrow we are Russians. That’s just wrong.”