“Crimea’s regional legislature on Tuesday adopted a ‘declaration of independence of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea,’ ” The Associated Press reports. “The document specified that Crimea will become an independent state if its residents vote on Sunday in favor of joining Russia.”
That’s just one of several developments Tuesday as the crisis in Ukraine continues. Among the other news:
— Sanctions. France’s foreign minister said Western nations could impose sanctions on Russia — including freezes of some individuals’ financial assets and travel restrictions — as soon as this week, NPR’s Gregory Warner tells our Newscast Desk. As he notes, “the U.S. has already imposed travel restrictions on Russian and Crimean officials accused of ‘threatening Ukraine’s sovereignty and integrity.’ ”
— Yanukoyvch. Ousted Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych said Tuesday that presidential elections in his country that are scheduled for late May are illegal, The Wall Street Journal writes. It adds: “In a brief statement delivered to reporters in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, Mr. Yanukovych didn’t directly address a regionwide referendum to be held in Crimea on Sunday to decide whether the breakaway territory will secede from Ukraine and become part of Russia, but blamed the new government in Kiev for causing the divisions that have driven Crimeans to want to leave.”
The vote for a “declaration of independence” by Crimea’s parliament adds to the tension that’s building in the run-up to Sunday’s referendum. Just more than half of the region’s population is ethnic Russian. Since Yanukovych left Ukraine last month following months of protests against his government and was then removed from office by his nation’s parliament, Russia has moved to take control of the strategically important Crimean Peninsula — where it has long had a Black Sea naval base.
The U.S. and its Western allies have condemned Russia’s actions as being in violation of international law. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he is protecting ethnic Russians from possible reprisal by what he claims are Ukrainian nationalists now in control in Kiev.
So far, there have been no serious confrontations between Russian forces and Ukrainian troops, who have mostly remained in their bases in Crimea.