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.
A million and a half Crimean voters are eligible to vote in a referendum that will determine the future of the sovereign republic located within Ukraine. (Mehdi Chebil / FRANCE 24)
According to the organisers of the referendum, only Crimean residents who have a Ukrainian passport can cast their ballots. (Mehdi Chebil / FRANCE 24)
The rule is not strictly applied. Here, a Crimean woman with an outdated Soviet passport prepares to vote. (Mehdi Chebil / FRANCE 24)
The ballot, printed in Russian, Ukrainian, and Tatar, offers two options: a return to the Constitution of 1992 (which would entail near-total sovereignty within Ukrainian borders) or annexation by Russia. (Mehdi Chebil / FRANCE 24)
Viktor Nicolaivitch Sirodkin wanted his grandson, Anton, to be present to witness his vote in favour of joining Russia. (Mehdi Chebil / FRANCE 24)
Russian MP Roman Khudyakov has been sent as an observer, and goes from polling station to polling station to verify that everything goes smoothly. (Mehdi Chebil / FRANCE 24)
A Ukrainian police officer inside a polling station. (Mehdi Chebil / FRANCE 24)
Outside a polling station, pro-Russian Crimeans showed their support for Moscow by waving Russian flags. (Mehdi Chebil / FRANCE 24)
Igor, a 49-year-old factory worker, shows his Ukrainian passport. “Crimea has no future with Ukraine,” he says. “The heroes of Ukrainian nationalists are anti-heroes for us.” (Mehdi Chebil / FRANCE 24)
Date created : 2014-03-16