(Simferopol, Ukraine) – Crimeans overwhelmingly “voted” today to secede from Ukraine, raising the specter of a messy divorce and additional military action by Russia and increased sanctions by the West.
The referendum, scheduled just 10 days ago, was seen as a mere formality giving tacit approval to a Russian invasion and takeover of this region of Ukraine.
“We do not see it as an invasion,” said a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We see it more as a ‘reclamation’ of what is rightfully ours. [Nikita] Khrushchev mistakenly ‘gave’ Crimea to Ukraine in 1954. We’re just nullifying that 60-year-old decision. Or, rather, we’re allowing Crimeans to nullify it through a completely fair and democratic election.”
Up until last week, the Crimea crisis was the talk of the 24/7 news channels. Then, on March 8, Malaysian Airlines MH370 went missing.
“Putin must be just about the only person on the planet who’s happy about the disappearance of MH370,” said a political scientist, speaking on condition of anonymity. “That mystery is the only thing that kept Ukraine and Crimea off the front pages of the news this past week.”
The West has tried to deal diplomatically with Putin about the Crimea issue, but he has turned a deaf ear while simultaneously tightening his grip on the Ukrainian peninsula. And this vote will only serve to ratchet up the pressure on what it sees as blatant aggression, even as Putin has considered it his duty to protect ethnic Russians, no matter where they live.
“President Obama continues to deplore this aggression in the strongest possible terms,” said a White House spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity. “He has repeatedly told President Putin that there will be consequences. While we still have absolutely no idea what the consequences might be, there will definitely be consequences. And that’s consequential.”
The vote has made other former Soviet satellites nervous. Ethnic Russians live in the Baltic States – Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia – and Poland. Additionally, Beverly Hills, California is also on heightened alert; more than 1% of its residents were born in Russia.
“Privately, we’re hoping Putin will at least drag Shannen Doherty off to a gulag,” said a Russian-born Beverly Hills resident, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Then there is the question of the referendum’s validity.
Crimean officials have claimed 93% of the votes went for secession. “This sends a clear message to the rest of Ukraine and the rest of the world,” said a spokesman for Crimean Prime Minister Serhiy Aksyonov, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Today, we are no longer Ukrainians. We are Russians!”
But history is replete with dictators easily manhandling their opponents – and their citizens. In 2012, Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov was re-elected with 97% of the vote. Syrian butcher Bashar al-Assad got 97.62% in 2007 (running unopposed). Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak got 88.6% in 2005. Fidel and Raul Castro have each claimed 99% during their political careers, as did North Korea’s Kim Jong Il. And then there’s the gold standard: Iraq’s Saddam Hussein ran unopposed and won 100% of the vote in 2002.
Crimean officials shrugged off the accusations of voter fraud, noting they had purchased voting machines cast off from Florida after the 2000 election. “If it’s good enough for America, it’s good enough for us!” exclaimed a member of the Crimean government, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Even with doubts about its validity, reaction to the vote from other countries was swift and mostly critical.
The referendum was rejected by the United States and other Western governments, noting the vote had taken place with Crimeans at the barrel of a gun. Russia has flooded Crimea with tens of thousands of troops since the start of the crisis.
Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukraine’s prime minister, called the vote a “circus” before the votes were even counted.
“Yes, definitely a circus,” said a spokesman for Yatsenyuk, speaking on condition of anonymity. “And not a Ringling Brothers circus. And not Circus Atari for the Atari 2600, either.”
“BUWAHAHAHAHA!!!” exclaimed Ukrainian President-in-Exile Viktor Yanukovych from the safety of his location in Russia. The collapse of Yanukovych’s corrupt government in February set off the chain of events leading up to today’s historic, fair, and democratic vote.
Crimean Prime Minister Serhiy Aksyonov called the referendum “absolutely, positively, truly, and seriously 100% fair” and said he looked forward to the Russian annexation of the rest of Ukraine.
Crimean Tatars, a Muslim minority, appear to have avoided the sham vote altogether. “We saw this was a rigged election,” said a Crimean Tatar, speaking on condition of anonymity, “so why participate? Everyone knew what the end result would be. For us Tatars, we knew what was at stake.”