2014 Crimean status referendum
The Crimean status referendum was a controversial vote on the political status of Crimea held on March 16, 2014 by the legislature of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the local government of Sevastopol (both subdivisions of Ukraine). The referendum asked local populations whether they wanted to join Russia as a federal subject, or if they wanted to restore the 1992 Crimean constitution and Crimea's status as a part of Ukraine. The official result from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea was a 97 percent vote for integration of the region into the Russian Federation with an 83 percent voter turnout, and within the local government of Sevastopol there was also a 97 percent vote for integration of the region into the Russian Federation with an 89 percent voter turnout.
|Location||Crimea Autonomous Republic of Crimea|
|Voting system||Majority voting|
|Autonomous Republic of Crimea|
|This article is part of a series on the|
politics and government of Crimea
Political status of Crimea
Politics of Russia
Politics of Ukraine
After the events of Euromaidan, the referendum was held during and after Russia's implementation of a military presence in Crimea. The referendum is not internationally recognized by most countries.
In 1991 and 1994, Crimea passed referendums in support for greater Crimean autonomy within Ukraine's sovereignty. Most recently, members of the Supreme Council of Crimea claimed the ousting of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in the 2014 Ukrainian revolution was a "coup" and the new interim government in Kyiv was illegitimate and stated that the referendum was a response to these developments.
The March 16 referendum's available choices did not include keeping the status quo of Crimea and Sevastopol as they were at the moment the referendum was held. The 1992 constitution accords greater powers to the Crimean parliament including full sovereign powers to establish relations with other states; therefore, many Western and Ukrainian commentators argued that both provided referendum choices would result in de facto separation from Ukraine. The final date and ballot choices were set only ten days before the plebiscite was held. Before, during and after the plebiscite was proclaimed, the Crimean peninsula was host to Russian soldiers who managed to oversee public buildings and Ukrainian military installations.
Following the referendum, The Supreme Council of Crimea and Sevastopol City Council declared the independence of the Republic of Crimea from Ukraine and requested to join the Russian Federation. On the same day, Russia recognized the Republic of Crimea as a sovereign state.
The referendum was regarded as illegitimate by most members of the European Union mainly due to Russian intervention. Thirteen members of the United Nations Security Council voted in favor of a resolution declaring the referendum invalid, but Russia vetoed it and China abstained. A United Nations General Assembly resolution was later adopted, by a vote of 100 in favor vs. 11 against with 58 abstentions, which declared the referendum invalid and affirmed Ukraine's territorial integrity. As the plebiscite was proclaimed, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People had called for a boycott of the referendum. The Mejlis Deputy Chairman, Akhtem Chiygoz, felt that the actual turnout could not have exceeded 30–40 percent, arguing that to be the normal turnout for votes in the region.
According to the 2001 Ukrainian population census, 58.3% of the population of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea are ethnic Russians, 24.3% are ethnic Ukrainians and 12% are Crimean Tatars. In Sevastopol, 71.6% are ethnic Russians and 22.4% are ethnic Ukrainians. 77% of Crimea's and 94% of Sevastopol's population are native speakers of Russian.
Crimea and Sevastopol are neighboring subdivisions of Ukraine located in the Crimean peninsula, a region with a long and complex history. Demographically, the region is currently populated by Russian-speaking majorities but with such demographics undergoing dramatic changes for the past 200 years, due in part to the deportation of the Crimean Tatars 70 years ago. Following the Tatar deportation, large numbers of ethnic Russians and ethnic Ukrainians settled in the region.
During the period of the Soviet Union, the Crimean Oblast was a subdivision of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic until the 1954 transfer of Crimea into the Ukrainian SSR. Crimea became part of independent Ukraine after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, shortly after Crimea had re-gained its autonomy following a 1991 referendum. The Ukrainian parliament abolished the 1992 Crimean Constitution and the office of President of Crimea in 1995. In 1998, Crimea gained a new constitution, which granted it less autonomy; notably, any legislation passed by the Crimean parliament could be vetoed by the Ukrainian parliament.
Polling in 2008 by the Ukrainian Centre for Economic and Political Studies, also called the Razumkov Centre, found that 63.8% of Crimeans (76% of ethnic Russians, 55% of ethnic Ukrainians, and 14% of ethnic Crimean Tatars, respectively) would like Crimea to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, and that 53.8% of Crimeans would like to preserve its current status but with expanded powers and rights. Razumkov characterized Crimeans' views as controversial and unsteady, and therefore vulnerable to internal and external influences.
The United Nations Development Programme conducted a series of polls in Crimea between 2009 and 2011 about the question of leaving Ukraine and joining Russia with a sample size of 1,200:
A poll by the International Republican Institute in May 2013 found that 53% wanted "Autonomy in Ukraine (as today)", 12% were for "Crimean Tatar autonomy within Ukraine", 2% for "Common oblast of Ukraine" and 23% voted for "Crimea should be separated and given to Russia".
A poll conducted in Crimea in 2013 and then repeated February 8 – 18, 2014 (just days before the ousting of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych), by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) found 35.9% and then 41% support for unification of all Ukraine with Russia.
The Crimean Institute of Political and Social Research conducted a survey from March 8–10, 2014, and found that 77% of respondents planned to vote for "reunification with Russia", while 97% of polled Crimeans assessed the current situation in Ukraine as negative.
From March 12 – 14, 2014, Germany's largest pollster, the GfK Group, conducted a survey with 600 respondents and found that 70.6% of Crimeans intended to vote for joining Russia, 10.8% for restoring the 1992 constitution, and 5.6% did not intend to take part in the referendum. The poll also showed that if Crimeans had more choices, 53.8% of them would choose joining Russia, 5.2% restoration of 1992 constitution, 18.6% a fully independent Crimean state and 12.6% would choose to keep the previous status of Crimea.
Gallup conducted an immediate post-referendum survey of Ukraine and Crimea and published their results in April 2014. Gallup reported that, among the population of Crimea, 93.6% of ethnic Russians and 68.4% of ethnic Ukrainians believed the referendum result accurately represents the will of the Crimean people. Only 1.7% of ethnic Russians and 14.5% of ethnic Ukrainians living in Crimea thought that the referendum results didn't accurately reflect the views of the Crimean people.
In May 2014, Washington D.C. Pollster Pew Research published results of a survey that encompassed Crimea, Ukraine, and Russia, in which it was reported that 88% of Crimeans believed the government of Kyiv should officially recognize the result of Crimea's referendum.
Between December 12 and 25, 2014, Levada-Center carried out a survey of Crimea that was commissioned by John O'Loughlin, College Professor of Distinction and Professor of Geography at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and Gerard Toal (Gearóid Ó Tuathail), Professor of Government and International Affairs at Virginia Tech's National Capital Region campus. The results of that survey were published by Open Democracy in March, 2015, and reported that, overall, 84% of Crimeans felt the choice to secede from Ukraine and accede to Russia was "Absolutely the right decision", with the next-largest segment of respondents saying the decision to return to Russia was the "Generally right decision". The survey commissioners, John O'Loughlin and Gerard Toal, wrote in their Open Democracy article that, while they felt that the referendum was "an illegal act under international law", their survey shows "It is also an act that enjoys the widespread support of the peninsula's inhabitants, with the important exception of its Crimean Tatar population" with "widespread support for Crimea's decision to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation one year ago". Their survey also reported that a majority of Crimean Tatars viewed Crimea's return to Russia as either the "Absolutely right decision" or the "Generally right decision".
From January 16 – 22, 2015, Germany's GfK Group, with support from the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, followed-up their pre-referendum survey of Crimeans' voting intention with a post-referendum survey about how satisfied Crimeans are with the outcome of their referendum. GfK's post-referendum survey found that 82% of Crimeans "Fully endorse" Crimea's referendum and return to Russia, while another 11% "Mostly endorse" it.
From February 9 – 18, 2015, Russian public opinion research centre, VTsIOM, carried out a door-to-door survey of 1,600 Crimean respondents. The VTsIOM survey asked how people would vote if the same referendum on Crimea's identity that was held in March 2014 were held again at the present time (February 2015). VTsIOM reported that 97% of ethnic Russians, 91% of ethnic Ukrainians, 49% of ethnic Tatars, and 92% of all other ethnic groups would vote for Crimea to join Russia, while 1% of ethnic Russians, 4% of ethnic Ukrainians, 26% of ethnic Tatars, and 2% of all other ethnic groups would vote to remain an autonomous region of Ukraine.
In November 2017, German pollster ZOiS published the results of a survey which reported that 85.3% of Crimeans excluding Tatars, and 61.8% of Crimean Tatars excluding other Crimean demographics thought that Crimeans would either vote the same or that the majority would vote the same as they did in 2014 if the same referendum were held at the present time (November 2017). 3.8% of Crimeans excluding Tatars, and 16.2% of Crimean Tatars responded that most Crimeans would vote differently if the same referendum were held again at that time in 2017. The ZOiS survey also reported that, among the Crimean population apart from Tatars, when asked what was the reason Crimea became a part of Russia in 2014, 32.9% of respondents said that Crimea became a part of Russia as a result of Kyiv's neglect of the region over many years, 25% of respondents said it happened because of the mobilization of the Crimean population, 24% respondents said it happened as a result of the Euromaidan, and 17.4% said it happened as a result of Russia's action. When the same question was asked of Crimean Tatars, excluding all other demographics in Crimea, 36.3% of respondents said that Crimea became a part of Russia as a result of the Euromaidan, 32.9% said it happened as a result of Kyiv's neglect of the region over many years, 24% of respondents said it happened as a result of Russia's action, and 7.8% said it happened because of the mobilization of the Crimean population.
In March 2019, Russian public opinion research centre, VTsIOM, published the results of a new survey of Crimea in which 89% of respondents said they would vote to "reunify" with Russia if a referendum on the matter were held next week. The same survey reported 93% of Crimeans viewed Crimea's "reunification" with Russia in a positive light, while 3% viewed it in a negative light. 86% of respondents said they believed that Crimea is developing more successfully as under Russian control, while 72% said that the "reunification" had a positive effect on their lives and that of their families. 59% of respondents said they had "noticed positive changes on the peninsula in the last year".
In December 2019, Levada-Center was again commissioned by John O'Loughlin, College Professor of Distinction and Professor of Geography at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and Gerard Toal (Gearóid Ó Tuathail), Professor of Government and International Affairs at Virginia Tech's National Capital Region campus, to carry-out a survey of Crimea's attitudes towards their referendum and living as a part of Russia. The survey aimed to repeat the questions of their 2014 survey. The 2019 survey found that 82% of Crimea's population supported Crimea's accession to Russia, as opposed to 86% in 2014. The survey also found that 58% of Crimean Tatars now supported Crimea's accession to Russia, as opposed to 39% in 2014.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has experience with similar referenda. According to Vladimir Chuykin, who was head of Narva city council in 1993, Putin (who was the Saint Petersburg city official) aided the Russian majority population in the Estonian city in a referendum on autonomy that was later regarded as unconstitutional. The Narva referendum was not backed by Moscow. Cossacks were amassed on the other side of the Narva River before the referendum. Putin and St. Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak managed to prevent Cossacks from crossing the border.
On February 27, amidst tensions in the region during the Ukrainian revolution, the Supreme Council of Crimea voted to hold a referendum on the status of Crimea on May 25. Olha Sulnikova, head of information and analysis department of parliament, reported on the phone from inside the parliamentary building that 61 of the registered 64 deputies had voted for the referendum resolution and 55 for the resolution to dismiss the government.
Interfax-Ukraine reported that, "it is impossible to find out whether all the 64 members of the 100-member legislature who were registered as present, when the two decisions were voted on or whether someone else used the plastic voting cards of some of them" because due to the armed occupation of parliament it was unclear how many members of parliament were present.
Enver Abduraimov, member of the parliament presidium, said that he did not go inside when he saw that armed guards who secured the building were confiscating all communications devices from deputies. Andriy Krysko, head of the Crimean branch of the Voters Committee of Ukraine, announced that no one from the parliament secretariat was in the building when voting took place.
Originally the referendum was to be about the status of Crimea within Ukraine and was initially set for May 25, but later, on March 1, it was pushed back to March 30. The referendum was approved by the Supreme Council of Crimea in February but the Central Election Commission of Ukraine denounced it by stating that the Crimean authorities do not possess the legal jurisdiction to conduct it. Regarding the referendum's initial purpose, The Daily Telegraph reported on February 27, that it, "appears to be for greater autonomy within Ukraine rather than for full independence."
On March 4, the district administration court of Kyiv nullified the no confidence vote in the Council of Ministers of Crimea and the appointment of Sergey Aksyonov as Prime Minister of Crimea and declared the organization and conduct of the referendum as illegal. On March 6, the Supreme Council changed the date of the referendum from March 30 to 16 and changed the choice for the referendum from greater autonomy to accession to the Russian Federation. This decision was made with 78 votes in favor and 8 abstentions. Concerns were raised about the presence of armed forces outside the parliament and reports of lawmakers being denied access to the vote. Later that day, acting President Turchynov announced "In accordance with power I am conferred on, I have stopped the decision of the Crimean parliament. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine will initiate dissolution of the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. We will defend the inviolability of the Ukrainian territory."
On March 11 in their joint Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Crimea, the Supreme Council of Crimea and the Sevastopol City Council expressed their intention to join with Russia pending a supporting result in the referendum.
On March 14 the Crimean parliament removed the coat of arms of Ukraine from its building.
- Choice 1: Do you support the reunification of Crimea with Russia with all the rights of the federal subject of the Russian Federation?
- Choice 2: Do you support the restoration of the Constitution of the Republic of Crimea in 1992 and the status of the Crimea as part of Ukraine?
The referendum was to be decided by a simple majority with the choice with the most votes declared winner. Media outlets reported different translations for each choice and labeled them as "questions" which has created some confusion and inconsistencies on the matter.
The city of Sevastopol, which is also located in the Crimean peninsula but administered separately from the Crimean republic, was also included in the referendum process. However, on March 6, 2014, Sevastopol unilaterally declared itself a federal subject of the Russian Federation.
For the second choice, it was unclear whether the 1992 constitution was to be adopted in its original form or in its amended form. The original 1992 constitution was adopted together with a declaration of independence, but parliament then amended the constitution one day later to affirm that Crimea "was a part of Ukraine".
There were two simultaneous referendums, one organised by the city council of Sevastopol and another organised by a special committee set up by the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
The reactions of many nations to the referendum—particularly of Western-nations—were addressing the matter of Crimean secession from Ukraine, whereas the Crimean referendum itself was not about secession from Ukraine, but took Crimea's secession from Ukraine to already be de facto following its government's declaration.[original research?] Crimea's March 16 referendum occurred following the March 11 declaration of Crimea's independence from Ukraine made by Crimea's parliament, which was made following a controversial parliamentary vote of 78 in favour of, and 22 against Crimea's secession from Ukraine. Both of the ballot options for the March 16, 2014 Crimean referendum acknowledged that Crimea was already an independent state at that time, despite the declaration of independence occurring without a national vote in Ukraine, as the constitutions required.
The interim Ukrainian government, European Union, and several other bodies stated that any referendum held by the local government of Crimea without the express authority of Ukraine is unconstitutional and illegitimate. The interim government in Kyiv and the pro-Russian Crimean faction do not recognize each other as legitimate. Additionally, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People—the unofficial political association of the Crimean Tatars—called for a boycott of the referendum.
Russia and the Crimean parliament argue that the referendum is legal, citing the UN recognized right of self-determination and the advisory opinion on Kosovo in which the International Court of Justice declared that international law contains no prohibition against declarations of independence. Legal scholars have disputed the validity of the Kosovo analogy.
According to article 73 of the 1996 Constitution of Ukraine and article 3 of the 2012 Ukrainian law "On all-Ukrainian referendum", territorial changes can only be approved via a referendum where all the citizens of Ukraine are allowed to vote, including those that do not reside in Crimea. The Central Election Commission of Ukraine also stated that there are no judicial possibilities, according to the legislation of Ukraine, to initiate such changes.
The Venice Commission declared that the referendum was illegal under both Ukrainian and Crimean Constitutions, and violated international standards and norms. The Venice Commission stressed that self-determination was to be understood primarily as internal self-determination within the framework of the existing borders and not as external self-determination through secession. Moreover, the Venice Commission opined, any referendum on the status of a territory should have been preceded by serious negotiations among all stakeholders, and that such negotiations did not take place.
Many scholars and politicians (Neil Melvin, Robert McCorquodale, John Kerry, John B. Bellinger III, Marc Weller among others) have stated that the referendum was conducted under the cover of assault rifles and, thus, the result was obtained through violence. However, according to Russia Today and ITAR-TASS those claims are not substantiated by the international observers of the pro-Kremlin European Center of Geopolitical Analysis, Polish Eurasian Mateusz Piskorski (leader of the European observers' mission according to the Kremlin media outlet Russia Today), the FPÖ's Ewald Stadler and Johannes Hübner, Pavel Chernev, Aymeric Chauprade, Tatjana Ždanoka, Srđa Trifković, who said they saw no signs of pressure or military presence during the referendum, and that the Crimean people were genuinely eager to have their say in the vote.
Party of Regions MP Yuriy Miroshnychenko claimed on March 11 that "the Crimean referendum is illegitimate, and its holding must be immediately stopped". Another Party of Regions MP, Hanna Herman, commented the same day about Yanukovych's press conference, "He needs to ... prevent the illegal referendum".
President of Russia Vladimir Putin during his conversation with Mustafa Dzhemilev, a former Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, stated that Ukrainian Independence from the Soviet Union was not obtained legitimately, while maintaining that the Crimean referendum followed all international-law, the UN charter, and the convention established by Kosovo's NATO-prodded annexation from Serbia.
According to BBC News the campaign leading up to the referendum was "almost entirely pro-Russian". Pro-Russia election posters often featured crossed-out swastikas in an alleged attempt to be saying "No" to the Ukrainian government, who they alleged to be neo-Nazis. Shortly after the referendum was called, Ukrainian TV channels were made unavailable for Crimean viewers, some of them were replaced with Russian stations. BBC News also stated it had received reports of violence against pro-Ukrainian activists.
OSCE and UN absence
On March 10, 2014 the de facto Prime Minister of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, made an unofficial verbal invitation to OSCE to monitor the plebiscite. However, later in the day, an OSCE spokeswoman said that Crimea did not have the authority to invite the organization into the region as it is not a fully-fledged state and, therefore, incapable of requesting services provided exclusively to OSCE members. On March 11, the OSCE chair, Switzerland's Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, declared the referendum as unconstitutional and therefore the OSCE would not send observers. OSCE military observers attempted to enter the region four times but were turned away, sometimes after warning shots were fired, which was another reason given for not dispatching referendum observers.
OSCE also published a report about their observations which "produced significant evidence of equipment consistent with the presence of Russian Federation military personnel in the vicinity of the various roadblocks encountered".
The UN Human Rights Envoy Ivan Šimonović had to cancel his trip to Crimea as the current situation did not permit his travel. He intended to observe the human rights situation which was Russia's explanation for its engagement in Crimea.
Russian-controlled media and referendum organizers said that from nearly 70 to 135 international observers monitored the referendum without reporting any violations, but the objectivity of these has been questioned, because many of them had ties to far-right extremist groups. According to reports by the state media, observers to the 2014 Crimean referendum included members of the European Union's parliament, as well as MPs from various European nations, including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia and Poland, and that observers quoted regarding the conditions of the referendum corroborated claims of the referendum having adhered to international standards, with no irregularities or breaches of democracy.
According to Yale historian Timothy Snyder, the Russian government invited individuals belonging to European far-right, anti-semitic and neo-Nazi parties to serve as observers. At least some of the international observers were managed and financed by the Eurasian Observatory for Democracy & Elections (EODE), a far-right, NGO international election-monitoring organization.
Shaun Walker from The Guardian reported that during a press conference on the eve of the referendum, some of the aforementioned observers "went on political rants against U.S. hegemony in the world", describing the press conference as "rather bizarre".
Allegations of fraud
A Russian journalist claimed that she was allowed to vote even after admitting she was a Russian citizen with only a temporary one-year permit to live in Crimea. "According to all the laws, this is illegal," she said in one interview. "I am a foreign citizen. How can I decide the destiny of the Crimean Autonomous Republic of Ukraine?"
The chairman of the electoral campaign of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People claimed officials did not check carefully whether voters' names were on the electoral register and that some voters were bussed in to Bakhchysarai to increase participation rates in the city. Mejlis also stated that only 34.2% of Crimea residents participated in the referendum.
According to three Czech observers funded by the pro-Russian far-right non-governmental organization Eurasian Observatory for Democracy & Elections, deputy Stanislav Berkovec reported that the voting was free and the foreign deputies could move freely. According to his discussions with people, even the Tatars inclined towards Russia. Another deputy Milan Šarapatka reported that the referendum was formally regular and that there was no evidence of pressure on voters. According to Miloslav Soušek (the Vysoké Mýto mayor), the course of the referendum was comparable to the elections in the Czech Republic, he saw no soldiers in the town.
According to the Central Election Commission of Ukraine on February 28, 2014 there were 1,534,815 registered voters in the autonomous republic of Crimea and 309,774 in the city of Sevastopol, which totals to 1,844,589 voters in the both Ukrainian regions.
According to organizers of the referendum, 1,274,096 people voted in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, giving the plebiscite an 83.1% turnout in that region.
|Choice||Votes||Percentage of registered voters||Percentage of all ballots cast||Percentage of valid votes|
|Join the Russian Federation as federal subject of Russia?||1,233,002||80.42%||96.77%||97.47%|
|Restore the 1992 Crimea constitution and become a part of Ukraine?||31,997||2.09%||2.51%||2.53%|
|Subtotal of valid votes||1,264,999||82.51%||99.29%||100.00%|
|Invalid or blank votes||9,097||0.59%||0.72%||—|
|Total votes cast||1,274,096||83.1%||100.00%||—|
|Registered voters that did not participate||≈ 259,112||16.9%||—||—|
|Total registered voters||≈ 1,533,208||100.00%||—||—|
|Choice||Votes||Percentage of registered voters||Percentage of all ballots cast||Percentage of valid votes|
|Join the Russian Federation as Federal subject of Russia?||262,041||85.56%||95.6%||96.59%|
|Restore the 1992 Crimea constitution and become a part of Ukraine?||9,250||3.02%||3.37%||3.41%|
|Subtotal of valid votes||271,291||88.58%||98.97%||100.00%|
|Invalid or blank votes||2,810||0.92%||1.03%||—|
|Total votes cast||274,101||89.50%||100.00%||—|
|Registered voters that did not participate||32,157||10.50%||—||—|
|Total registered voters||[dubious ]306,258||100.00%||—||—|
Alternative estimates of results
In the evening of 16 March 2014, Mikhail Malyshev, the Crimean election Spokesman, reported that as of 20:00, 1,250,427 people or 81.36% voted in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and 274,136 or 89.50% voted in Sevastopol for a total of 1,524,563 or 82.71% of the electorate. ITAR-TASS initially reported this as 1,724,563 voters in total, but corrected it later. The discrepancy led to some reports of a 123% turnout in Sevastopol.
On 5 May, the Russian President's Human Rights Council posted a report to their site about human rights in Crimea based on interviews with roughly 20 local human rights activists conducted over the course of two and a half days. One member of the council, Yevgeny Bobrov, reported the opinion that the "vast majority of the citizens of Sevastopol voted in favor of unification with Russia in the referendum (50–80%)" and that "in Crimea, various data show that 50–60% voted for unification with Russia, with a turnout of 30–50%". On 7 May the Council stated that the report was not an official position of the Council.
Mustafa Dzhemilev, a recent Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, reports that according to his sources the actual turn-up was only 32.4%, however he did not provide any evidence to support this claim. Mejlis Deputy Chairman Akhtem Chiygoz argued that voter turnout in the referendum among Crimeans did not exceeded 30–40 percent, but he did not provide any evidence either.
Andrey Illarionov, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Russian government adviser, cited results of previous polls over past three years showing the Crimean support for joining Russia between 23 and 41 percent to conclude that the actual support for the reunification of Crimea with Russia was about 34 percent and that at least two thirds of Crimea did not vote for it. He called the referendum a "grossly rigged falsification" and the outcome "cynically distorted".
The results of the survey by the US government Broadcasting Board of Governors, conducted April 21–29, 2014, showed that 83% of Crimeans felt that the results of the March 16 referendum on Crimea's status likely reflected the views of most people there. Whereas, this view is shared only by 30% in the rest of Ukraine.
According to the Gallup's survey performed on April 21–27, 82.8% of Crimean people consider the referendum results reflecting most Crimeans' views, and 73.9% of Crimeans say Crimea's becoming part of Russia will make life better for themselves and their families, while 5.5% disagree.
According to survey carried out by Pew Research Center in April 2014, majority of Crimean residents say the referendum was free and fair (91%) and that the government in Kyiv ought to recognize the results of the vote (88%).
A poll of the Crimean public was taken by the Ukrainian branch of Germany's biggest market research organization, GfK, on January 16–22, 2015. According to its results: "Eighty-two percent of those polled said they fully supported Crimea's inclusion in Russia, and another 11 percent expressed partial support. Only 4 percent spoke out against it. ... Fifty-one percent reported their well-being had improved in the past year."
Bloomberg's Leonid Bershidsky noted that "The calls were made on Jan. 16–22 to people living in towns with a population of 20,000 or more, which probably led to the peninsula's native population, the Tatars, being underrepresented because many of them live in small villages. On the other hand, no calls were placed in Sevastopol, the most pro-Russian city in Crimea. Even with these limitations, it was the most representative independent poll taken on the peninsula since its annexation."
Most countries, particularly Western ones, declared the referendum invalid and a breach of Ukrainian sovereignty. Only a few countries, including Armenia, Kazakhstan, Russia, and several breakaway states supported by Russia have endorsed the vote.
- The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People has announced that "Crimean Tatars will not take part in the referendum and deem it illegitimate." Mejlis Chairman Refat Chubarov argued that voter turnout in the referendum among Crimeans could only be a maximum of 30–40 percent and that only 1 percent of the Tatar people participated.[failed verification]
- The Ukrainian government has announced it will not recognise the referendum. Acting president Oleksandr Turchynov stated: "It is not a referendum, it is a farce, a fake and a crime against the state which is organised by the Russian Federation's military." Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko alleged Russian coercion in allowing the referendum and that the international community should not allow it to happen.
- European Union – All 28 member states of the European Union believe the separation of the Crimea from Ukraine to be unacceptable under international law.
- The European Parliament rejected the referendum on independence in Crimea, which they saw as manipulated and contrary to international and Ukrainian law.
- G7 world leaders said that they would not recognize the results of a referendum for Ukraine's Crimea region. The leaders called on Russia to "immediately" halt actions supporting the referendum on Crimea regarding its status.
- UN On March 15, the United Nations Security Council voted 13–1 (with one abstention: China) to condemn the referendum, but Russia vetoed the draft resolution. On April 16, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović has briefed the Security Council on the situation in Ukraine, and turning to his March 21 to 22 visit to Crimea he said "Media manipulation significantly contributed to a climate of fear and insecurity in the period preceding the referendum, and the presence of paramilitary and so-called self-defence groups, as well as soldiers in uniform but without insignia, was not conducive to an environment in which voters could freely exercise their right to hold opinions and the right to freedom of expression".
- UN The United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution describing the Crimean referendum as illegal. One hundred countries voted in favour of approving a UN General Assembly resolution declaring the Crimean referendum illegal and affirming Ukraine's territorial integrity. Eleven nations voted against, with 58 abstentions.
- The Monitoring Committee, in its report that was the basis for PACE resolution No. 1988 (2014) of April 9, 2014, questioned the official outcome of the referendum. Russians accounted for only 54% of the population and around 36% were Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians, who had announced a boycott of the referendum. The authors of the report argued that the combination of an 82% turnout and a 96% vote in favor of annexation was therefore implausible.
- NATO NATO – Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on March 14, "a planned referendum in Ukraine's Crimea region would violate international law and lack legitimacy". On April 12, NATO published a fact sheet claims that "the referendum was illegal according to the Ukrainian constitution, which states that questions of altering the territory of Ukraine are resolved exclusively by an All-Ukrainian referendum and was organized in a matter of weeks by a self-proclaimed Crimean leadership that was installed by armed Russian military personnel after seizing government buildings".
- Venice Commission – Experts of the Council of Europe for constitutional law have said that the referendum in Crimea on the peninsula's joining Russia which the Crimean authorities plan to hold on March 16 is illegal and it is not in line with the Constitution of Ukraine. The Council of Europe's so-called Venice Commission which is made up of independent constitutional experts said Crimea's vote to secede was undemocratic and violated Ukraine's constitution. Crimea's referendum to join Russia was "illegal", an advisory body of the pro-democracy Council of Europe said on March 21, as East-West tensions mounted over Moscow's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula. The Venice Commission has emphasized that the right to self-determination should be understood primarily as an internal self-determination within the existing borders, and not as an external self-determination through secession. In addition, any referendum on the status of the territory requires serious preliminary negotiations with all interested parties, and there were not such negotiations.
UN member states
- Afghanistan – The office of President Hamid Karzai said that Afghanistan respected "decision the people of Crimea took through a recent referendum that considers Crimea as part of the Russian Federation". Some sources stated that Afghanistan's government's break with its allies may have been due to Afghanistan's own irredentist aspirations to similarly regain Pashtun-inhabited parts of Pakistan.
- Albania – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Albania described the referendum as illegal in a statement and strongly objected to the idea that the declaration of independence of Crimea should be treated in the same manner as the declaration of independence of Kosovo. After the referendum, the Ministry reiterated its stance, saying the referendum set a dangerous precedent.
- Argentina – The President of Argentina Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, whose nation currently is a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, criticized the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom pointing out the hypocrisy that stems from them trying to act as the "world's police force". Kirchner further stated the double standards of the aforementioned bodies by stating that "My country is suffering an encroachment in the Malvinas Islands by the United Kingdom, and the major powers have spoken in favor of the referendum that 'kelpers' had: that is double standard. Can agree with the regional integrity in Crimea but not Argentina's", in reference to the Falkland Islands sovereignty dispute and its recent referendum in 2013.
- Armenia – Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandyan said on March 17 that Armenia is "for the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis through dialogue, in peaceful and negotiated manner based on the UN Charter, international law." During a phone conversation with Putin on March 19 President Serzh Sargsyan said the referendum in Crimea was an exercise of peoples' right to self-determination via free expression of will. Both leaders highlighted the importance of a commitment to the norms and principles of international law. Asbarez commented that Sargsyan "apparently recognized Crimea's referendum to secede from Ukraine and join Russia." In response, on March 20, Oleh Tyahnybok, the leader of the Ukrainian far-right Svoboda, urged to recall the Ukrainian ambassador to Armenia.
- Australia – Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has rejected the legitimacy of the referendum, given the brief time frame, the disregard of the Ukrainian constitution and the presence of Russian troops on the peninsula. Australia also imposes sanctions on Russia.
- Belarus – The position of President Alexander Lukashenko is vague: it includes "Ukraine should remain an integral, indivisible, non-aligned state" and "As for Crimea, I do not like it when the integrity and independence of a country are broken", on the one hand, and "Today Crimea is part of the Russian Federation. No matter whether you recognize it or not, the fact remains." and "Whether Crimea will be recognized as a region of the Russian Federation de jure does not really matter", on the other hand.
- Canada – Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the Canadian government will not recognize the result and that the region was under "illegal military occupation."
- China – Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said, "China always respects all countries' sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. The Crimean issue should be resolved politically under a framework of law and order. All parties should exercise restraint and refrain from raising the tension."
- Finland – The Foreign Ministry described the referendum as "against the Ukrainian constitution and, as such, illegal" and said it would "only aggravate the situation further".
- France – Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that the referendum in Ukraine's Crimea region planned for March 16 is illegitimate and the annexation of Crimea by Russia would be illegal. French President François Hollande told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in a phone call that the referendum planned in Crimea "has no legal basis."
- Georgia – On March 16, the Foreign Ministry released a statement saying it "does not recognize the referendum" as it occurred "amid pressure from Russian armed forces, in defiance of the universally recognized norms and principles of international law, with complete disregard for the Ukrainian national laws." It added, "Russia's attempt to annex Crimea represents a blatant violation of the commitments it has undertaken both under multilateral and bilateral agreements." On March 17, President Giorgi Margvelashvili called it an "illegal referendum" and expressed his "extreme concern". He said that "it is unimaginable to speak about free choice and free expression of people's will, where the situation is controlled by foreign, namely Russian, armed formations." He asserted that Georgia does not recognize the referendum and support Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
- Germany – Chancellor Angela Merkel called the referendum "illegal and incompatible with Ukraine's constitution."
- Hungary – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarded "the changing of the legal status of Crimea as illegitimate and unlawful", emphasizing that it "remains committed to Ukraine's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity."
- Iceland – On March 14, the Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson released a statement saying "The forthcoming referendum Crimea is taking place under Russian occupation. It is not in accordance with international law and is only bound to increase tensions in the region. It goes without saying that the outcome of such a referendum cannot be validated".
- India – India stated "There are legitimate Russian and other interests involved and we hope they are discussed and resolved." Further India made it clear that it will not support any "unilateral measures" against Russian government. "India has never supported unilateral sanctions against any country. Therefore, we will also not support any unilateral measures by a country or a group of countries against Russia."
- Indonesia – The Minister of Foreign Affairs Marty Natalegawa stated, as instructed by the President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, stated that Republic of Indonesia does not recognize the Crimean referendum which is viewed as a violation of Ukrainian unity and sovereignty.
- Kazakhstan – Kazakhstan views the referendum held in Crimea "as a free expression of will of the Autonomous Republic's population".
- Kyrgyzstan – Kyrgyzstan views the interim Ukrainian government as legitimate and has stated concern over the crisis, and condemns any activities aimed at destabilizing the situation in Ukraine. Nevertheless, the country recognized the referendum results as reflecting "the views of the region's absolute majority."
- Japan – Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida announced a set of sanctions against Russia for its recognition of Crimea as an independent state. Japan does not recognize the outcome of Crimea's referendum to split from Ukraine, saying it violates the Ukrainian constitution, and the country's sanctions to Russia involve suspension of talks on relaxing visa requirements between the two countries as well as planned talks on investment, space and military.
- Lithuania – Lithuania supports and recognizes Ukraine's territorial integrity, including Crimea. Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius has labeled the referendum as unhelpful in engendering a solution to the crisis.
- Norway – On March 14, the Foreign Minister Børge Brende released a statement saying "the referendum in Crimea, if it is held on Sunday as planned, is in violation of international law and lacks legitimacy".
- Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs released a statement saying that the Philippines is concerned over developments in Crimea, and urges all parties to exercise maximum restraint under United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3314. The DFA also urged for "comprehensive, inclusive and peaceful dialogue and reconciliation, with full respect for the rule of law".
- Poland – The Minister of Foreign Affairs Radosław Sikorski told Corriere della Sera on March 16, 2014, that the Crimean referendum was a farce under the barrel of a gun, reminiscent of the 19th-century territorial acquisitions. Following a working visit of the Polish delegation in Kyiv, the MFA Press Office stated on April 1, that Poland have allocated nearly half a million zloty toward expert assistance for the Ukrainian regional reforms.
- Romania – President Traian Băsescu issued a statement declaring that: "Romania considers the referendum illegal, and will not recognize the results". Foreign Minister Titus Corlățean called it "illegal and illegitimate" and "a violation of the Ukrainian Constitution", adding that the "result will not be recognized by the democratic international community".
- Russian Federation – Chairman of the Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko, said that Russia will welcome Crimea to the Federation if the referendum passes. President Vladimir Putin has further solidified Russia's position on the matter, stating: "The steps taken by the legitimate leadership of Crimea are based on the norms of international law and aim to ensure the legal interests of the population of the peninsula." During a phone call with once deported, former leader of the Crimean Tatars Mustafa Dzhemilev President Putin informed him that the rights of this indigenous people are important to him and that he ordered to prevent any violence against the Crimean Tatars. On March 17, President Putin signed a decree recognizing Crimea as a sovereign state. The State Duma issued a statement that was supported by 441 legislators, with one abstention and said: "Welcoming the expression of will by the Crimean people at the March 16 referendum on accession of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol to Russia, the State Duma proceeds from the standpoint that the government bodies operating on the territory of Crimea will be maintaining inter-faith accord and language diversity of the republic. The State Duma will contribute to ensuring the safety of all people staying in Crimea, regardless of their citizenship, nationality, language or religion, and to observing their legitimate rights and freedoms". Mayor of Moscow, Sergey Sobyanin congratulated residents of the Republic of Crimea. He recalled that Russians had always felt unity with Crimea and Sevastopol.
- Serbia – Ministry of Foreign Affairs refused to comment on Crimean referendum due to the caretaker status of the Government following the elections.
- South Korea – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that "The sovereignty, territorial right and independence of Ukraine must necessarily be respected," adding that "Our government cannot recognize the (recent) referendum on Crimean people and Russia's (subsequent) annexation of Crimea."
- Turkey – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey stated that, "The result of the unlawful and illegitimate 'referendum' held in Crimea on Sunday, 16 March 2014, and the de facto situation that will prevail following the steps that will be taken in conjunction with this referendum will not bear any legal validity for Turkey and will not recognize." Also, Turkey supports and recognizes Ukraine's territorial integrity, including Crimea. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has labeled the referendum as unhelpful in engendering a solution to the crisis.
- United Kingdom – Prime Minister David Cameron has declared that any referendum vote in Crimea will be "illegal, illegitimate, and will not be recognized by the international community." Foreign Secretary William Hague said that "I condemn the fact that this referendum has taken place. … The UK does not recognise the referendum or its outcome. … we believe measures must be adopted that send a strong signal to Russia that this challenge to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine will bring economic and political consequences."
- United States – The United States will not recognize the results of the referendum, and will continue to consider Crimea as part of Ukraine. President Barack Obama claimed that the referendum would violate Ukrainian sovereignty and international law. UN ambassador Samantha Power called it "illegitimate and without any legal effect". The United States issued limited sanctions on a number of Russian and Crimean officials.
- Venezuela – Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has accused both the US and the EU of "double standards" over Crimea and recalled the Kosovo and Falkland Islands referendums as evidence.
- Vietnam – The Spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Lê Hải Bình said that "the measures need to respect basic principles of international laws and legitimate aspirations of people so that the situation will soon be stable for peace and stability in the region and the world."
States with limited recognition
- Abkhazia – President Alexander Ankvab stated that he "respects the will of Crimeans, supports and recognizes their momentous choice" and that the referendum "reflects the will of multi-national people of the peninsula."
- Nagorno-Karabakh – Foreign Ministry of the NKR said in a statement on March 17 that the referendum is "yet another manifestation of realization of the right of people to self-determination." On March 18, a concert was held in Stepanakert dedicated to the "self-determination of Crimea" and was attended, among others, by President Bako Sahakyan.
- South Ossetia – Foreign Ministry stated that they "respect the right of population of Crimea to determine independently its fate."
- Transnistria – Irina Kubanskikh, a spokeswoman for the Transnistrian parliament, said that the region's public bodies had "appealed to the Russian Federation leadership to examine the possibility of extending to Trans-Dniester the legislation, currently under discussion in the State Duma, on granting Russian citizenship and admitting new subjects into Russia."
European political parties
Gábor Vona, leader of Hungary's Jobbik hailed the recent referendum in Crimea as "exemplary". Members of Austria's populist right-wing Freedom Party of Austria, the Flemish nationalist group Vlaams Belang and France's National Front pronounced the referendum free and fair.
The next day after the referendum, the parliament of Crimea asked the Russian Federation "to admit the Republic of Crimea as a new subject with the status of a republic". Later on the same day, March 17, Putin issued a decree formally recognizing Crimea as an independent state. On March 18, the Russian, Crimean, and Sevastopolian leadership signed the Treaty on Accession of the Republic of Crimea to Russia, which was ratified by the Russian Federal Assembly on March 21. A transition period was in force for integrating Crimean governmental institutions, ending on January 1, 2015.
After the seizure of Ukrainian naval base at Feodosia on March 24, Russian troops have seized most of Ukraine's military bases in Crimea. On the same day, the acting President of Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchynov, ordered the withdrawal of Ukrainian armed forces from Crimean peninsula.
Following the annexation of Crimea, according to report released on the Russian government run President of Russia's Council on Civil Society and Human Rights website, Tatars who were opposed to Russian rule have been persecuted, Russian law restricting freedom of speech has been imposed, and the new pro-Russian authorities "liquidated" the Kyiv Patriarchate Orthodox church on the peninsula. The Crimean Tatar television station was also shut down by the Russian authorities.
After the annexation, on 16 May the new Russian authorities of Crimea issued a ban on the annual commemorations of the anniversary of the Deportation of the Crimean Tatars by Stalin in 1944, citing "possibility of provocation by extremists" as a reason. Previously, when Crimea was controlled by Ukraine, these commemorations had taken place every year. The pro-Russian Crimean authorities also banned Mustafa Dzhemilev, a human rights activist, Soviet dissident, member of the Ukrainian parliament, and former Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars from entering Crimea. Additionally, Mejlis reported, that officers of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) raided Tatar homes in the same week, on the pretense of "suspicion of terrorist activity". The Tatar community eventually did hold commemorative rallies in defiance of the ban. In response Russian authorities flew helicopters over the rallies in an attempt to disrupt them.
- Morello; Constable; Faiola (2014) "[Mikhail Malyshev, the Crimean election Spokesman,] who spoke briefly Monday morning on Crimean television, said a total of 1,274,096 people voted, for an 83.1 percent turnout. Of those who cast a ballot, [sic] 1,233,002 voted to shift to Russia, 31,997 voted to stay with Ukraine, and 9,097 were in invalid, Malyshev said."
- Crimean Parliament (2014; in Russian) "Вопрос, получивший большинство голосов, считается выражающим прямое волеизъявление населения Крыма."
- Kolstø; Edemsky (1995) "On 5 May 1992 the Crimean parliament adopted a constitution plus a Declaration of Independence. [...] However, on the very next day, the parliament inserted a new sentence into the new constitution to the effect that the Crimean republic [was] a constituent part of the Ukrainian republic." p. 194
- The Constitution of the Soviet Union did give the Republics of the Soviet Union the right to secede.
- Urquhat; Williamson; Nelid (2014) "[Walker has] just come back from a rather bizarre "press conference" of international observers for the referendum. It was 45 minutes before there were any questions, as the six people present mainly went on political rants against US hegemony in the world."
- Calculated as Total votes cast divided by Turnout
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Due to numerous media references to report "Problems of Crimean residents" as to official document of the Presidential Council on Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, which expresses its view of Crimean referendum, we have to make it clear, that it [report] is not a such document
Original quote : В связи с многочисленными ссылками СМИ на обзор "Проблемы жителей Крыма" как на официальный документ Совета при Президенте РФ по развитию гражданского общества и правам человека, выражающий оценку Советом крымского референдума, разъясняем, что он таковым не является
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