High turn out for referendum to decide if Crimea will be absorbed by Russia
March 16, 2014
Republican Senator John McCain and his Democrat counterpart Senator Dick Durbin are demanding Obama send weapons to the coup in Kyiv.
McCain headed up a bipartisan delegation of senators who traveled to Ukraine’s capitol to show support for the junta government that overthrew the country’s elected president last month. In addition to McCain and Durbin, the group includes John Barrasso (R-WY), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), John Hoeven (R-ND), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
“First of all, they need small arms but they need other military equipment as well,” McCain told the KyivPost. “There needs to be a training regimen also. A lot of their military is not well trained, nor ready to fight. That shouldn’t prevent us from getting arms to them, not just to defend themeless [sic] but as a signal that we are supporting them. I think it’s vital to give them arms and I think it’s also vital to send a message that we’re willing to give them arms with which to defend themselves from an imminent invasion of another party of their country … They only have a few thousand combat troops and would be overwhelmed by the Russians if it came to that. One of their urgent requests is to have us supply them with weapons. I will be urging our administration to arrange that transfer as quickly as possible.”
“To make it happen, all the president has to do is order it tomorrow,” McCain said. “He can have it done tomorrow.”
In an op-ed published by The New York Times last week, McCain said a failure by the Obama administration to confront Russia and Vladimir Putin will emboldened enemies of the United States. “What is most troubling about Mr. Putin’s aggression in Crimea is that it reflects a growing disregard for America’s credibility in the world. That has emboldened other aggressive actors — from Chinese nationalists to Al Qaeda terrorists and Iranian theocrats,” he wrote.
McCain said the United States should sanction Russia, isolate the country internationally, and increase aggressive behavior by NATO on its border. “It should mean boycotting the Group of 8 summit meeting in Sochi and convening the Group of 7 elsewhere. It should also mean making every effort to support and resupply Ukrainian patriots, both soldiers and civilians, who are standing their ground in government facilities across Crimea. They refuse to accept the dismemberment of their country. So should we,” McCain wrote on March 14.
Extremely high turnout at this polling station. Haven't spoken to anyone yet who's voted against joining russia. pic.twitter.com/KiyJSmrN9b
— Ben Tobias (@ben_tobias) March 16, 2014
60% of Crimea is Russian. On Sunday a referendum deciding if Crimea should become part of Russia or remain in Ukraine under autonomy was held. Around 1.5 million people are expected to turn out for the vote. Nearly 45 percent of Crimean residents – over 670,000 people – had taken part in the vote by noon, according to the head of the Crimean parliament’s commission on the referendum, Mikhail Malyshev.
Coup Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk has vowed to hunt down, arrest, and put on trial those promoting “separatism and division” in Crimea. “The Ukrainian state will find all those ringleaders of separatism and division who now, under the cover of Russian troops, are trying to destroy Ukrainian independence,” he told a cabinet meeting as Crimeans went to the polls and voted on the referendum.
“We will find all of them — if it takes one year, two years — and bring them to justice and try them in Ukrainian and international courts. The ground will burn beneath their feet.”