Exclusive to The Daily Banter: Live From Crimea

by Askold Krushelnycky

Another day in Crimea & more disturbing things the day after Russians fired on OSCE & on a Ukrainian military plane.

The Russian police arrested the Ukranian community leader here & another activist & then apparently handed them over to the thug who is the Russian rebel President Sergei Aksionov. Ukrainian demonstrators have given 48 hours until midday Tuesday for his release. Looks bad.

Putin determined to precipitate bloodshed & I see these scumbags calling themselves “Cossacks” who want to beat & kill.

Trains have stopped coming to Crimea & I think planes next.

So mood is grim. But I now believe if the referendum was fair a majority would be for staying with Ukraine. And perhaps pressing for one is the way forward and at the very least show that Ukraine & the international community did not want to thwart the will of the Crimean inhabitants.

Ukraine & “international community” should agree that a referendum should be held & even commit to paying the costs.  But insist that it should be legal under Ukrainian law, with the relevant constitutional changes to enable it.  That could be sold to the Russian side as advantageous to them because the result would be internationally recognized instead of automatically dismissed.  But to achieve validity, the people in charge would need to allow international observers to watch over every stage of the process, including compilation of the voter lists (everyone must have a Ukrainian passport & proof they really are or have been residents) and observers at EACH balloting point (not too difficult because the entire population is under 2 million.

The whole of the world has become infected with dirty money from the east. That’s a fact unfortunately.  It’s good to expose that & it may get people thinking in the future.  But we have to work with the situation as it is now.  Ukraine cannot win a war against Russia and conflict would result in part of eastern Ukraine & Crimea being lost for the moment.

Russia’s problems are ever mounting & the same way that the USSR choked on its Afghan adventure, which became one of the chief factors in its disintegration, Moscow’s Ukrainian adventure might be the catalyst for its further ruin.

It turns out that Ukrainian Oligarch Dmytro Firtash has been heavily involved in financing the former criminal boss Sergei Aksionov (gang nickname “Goblin”) who is the self-proclaimed President of pro-Putin Crimeans.

On a lighter note …………….at the ceremony yesterday inaugurating the new Crimean Army, one of the  soldiers reading out his oath of loyalty instead of ending I pledge allegiance to the Crimean Republic said “to Ukraine”.  I, of-course, led the laughter among the journos.

Askold Krushelnycky is a British journalist working in Crimea. He writes for the Sunday Times, Foreign Policy and The Independent. He is the author of  An Orange Revolution: A Personal Journey Through Ukrainian History