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Pro-Russian Crimeans vote to restore 'Russian soul'

© Mehdi Chebil / FRANCE 24

Text by Mehdi CHEBIL

Latest update : 2014-03-17

FRANCE 24’s special correspondent spoke to Crimeans at polling stations on Sunday, March 16, as voters participated in a contested referendum expected to validate the annexation by Russia of this sovereign republic located within Ukraine.

“Why am I voting to join Russia? Because I’m Russian!” exclaims Viktor Nicolaivitch Sirodkin.

For this chauffeur and delivery driver, that explanation comes naturally, despite the fact that he had to show a Ukrainian passport to vote this morning at polling station Number 8 in Simferopol, the Crimean capital.

According to 57-year-old Sirodkin, Kiev’s control over Crimea is an error of history.

“We have a Russian soul, and everything else is secondary,” he says after casting his ballot.

Voters rushing into voting centres in the capital seemed to agree.

A foregone conclusion

Igor, a factory worker in Simferopol, emphasises the economic benefits of joining Russia. “Kiev is destroying everything, while Putin is trying to build something new,” he offers. “Russia has evolved since the 90s…here nothing has changed.”

The result of the referendum is seen as a foregone conclusion, since the opponents of annexation by Russia – a minority – have elected to boycott the poll.

The vice president of the Assembly of Crimean Tatars (a Turkic Muslim minority), Nariman Djelyal, told FRANCE 24 that it was, for him and many of his fellow Tatars, unthinkable to legitimise the referendum by participating.

“We called for a boycott of the referendum,” he said. “And this boycott doesn’t just concern Tatars; we are asking all residents of Crimea to abstain from voting.”

Needless to say that that call has gone unheeded by the republic’s Russian-speaking majority.

Date created : 2014-03-16

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