‘Canada will not recognize a referendum’ in Crimea: Stephen Harper

·Politics Reporter

The Stephen Harper government has weighed-in on the latest developments in Ukraine.

On Thursday, as explained by the Canadian Press, lawmakers in Crimea — the southern region of Ukraine currently occupied by Russian troops — voted unanimously to split from Ukraine and join Russia.

The 100-seat parliament in Crimea, which enjoys a degree of autonomy under current Ukrainian law, voted 78-0, with eight abstentions in favour joining Russia and for holding the referendum on March 16. Local voters also will be given the choice of deciding to remain part of Ukraine, but with enhanced local powers.

"This is our response to the disorder and lawlessness in Kyiv," said Sergei Shuvainikov, a member of the local Crimean legislature. "We will decide our future ourselves."

The March 16th referendum, however, will not be recognized by the international community.

Ukraine's prime minister called the referendum illegal; United States President Barack Obama said that it violates the Ukrainian constitution and international law; and Prime Minister Stephen Harper says that Canada will not endorse it.

"Russia's invasion of Ukraine is an act of aggression, a clear violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, and of international law. Canada will not recognize a referendum held in a region currently under illegal military occupation," Harper said in a statement.

"We will continue to view the situation in Ukraine with the gravest concern and will continue to cooperate closely with our G-7 partners and like-minded allies."

[ Related: Obama says referendum for Crimea to become part of Russia would violate international law ]

Regardless, if Crimea ignores the international rebuke and goes ahead with the referendum, a Ukrainian-Canadian observer suggests that it could be a close vote.

"I was looking at [Ukrainian province by province] stats from the second week of February. In Crimea [support for integration with Russia was] highest at 42 per cent -- not a majority," former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj told Yahoo Canada News earlier this week.

"All of those regions that the Russian media is highlighting...as regions in where there's great instability where Russians are under threat. It's laughable, Russians are not under threat and the Russian language is not under threat in Ukraine."

[ Related: Former Liberal MP warns that it’s a mistake to rule out military action in Ukraine ]

Harper's statement about the referendum is a continuation of his government's tough stance against the Russian occupation of Crimea.

To date, Canada has suspended participation in the Canada-Russia Intergovernmental Economic Commission and issued travel bans and asset freezes on members of the former Yanukovych regime.

And, on Wednesday, Canada announced that it will send two military observers to Crimea as part of an envoy with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

That group of military observers, however, was turned away from Crimea by what Reuters described as "unidentified men in fatigues."

"Military observers that have gone to the Ukraine at the invitation of the Ukrainian Government (43 people from 23 participating states), went to Odessa last night," a representative from OSCE told Yahoo Canada News.

"Today they went to Crimea but were not allowed to pass through two checkpoints. They are now going to Kherson to decide on their next move."

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

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