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MOSCOW, March 14. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia’s Foreign Ministry has expressed bewilderment with OSCE Chairman-in-Office Didier Burkhalter’s statement on Crimea.
Commenting on Crimea’s decision to hold a referendum on the republic’s status, Burkhalter said it would run counter the Ukrainian Constitution and should be recognized as illegitimate.
“Switzerland’s Chairmanship-in-Office reacted to the referendum on Crimea. However, it does not raise the question of legitimacy of a coup d’etat in Ukraine and the current Ukrainian regime. We hope that Switzerland’s chairmanship will take into account Russia’s interests,” the ministry said.
The ministry urged the OSCE leadership and member-countries of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to give up double standards and discuss an invitation of Crimea’s authorities to observe the upcoming referendum. This will help de-escalate the situation in the region, the ministry said.
Under the resolution of the OSCE Council of Ministers adopted in Porto, Portugal, in 2002, “On the Role of the OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office”, any actions should take into account the views of OSCE member-countries. “We hope that Switzerland’s Chairman-in-Office will follow this mandate,” the ministry said.
On March 10, the Crimean authorities have invited the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to send its observers to the March 16 referendum, in which the autonomy’s residents will be asked to decide on whether they want to join Russia or stay within Ukraine.
The invitation was handed over to Switzerland as the current OSCE Chairman-in-Office on Monday, March 10, officials at the Crimean parliament told Itar-Tass.
They said they expected observers from both individual OSCE member-states and from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to come to Crimea.
Some 1,500 Crimean troops will guard polling stations during the referendum, Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov said after attending the oath-taking ceremony in a special operations battalion.
“We will have about 1,500 armed troops by the time the referendum is held. They will be placed on duty at all polling stations,” Aksyonov said.”The referendum will be guarded by armed people, primarily the autonomy’s self-defence units and Armed Forces,” he added.
Aksyonov said OSCE observers would be let into Crimea on March 16. “I am confident that the parliament of Crimea will make it possible for them to be present at polling stations. This process is underway now and the referendum itself will be as transparent as possible,” he said.
The prime minister also commented on incidents with OSCE military observers who had not been allowed by the Crimean self-defense units to enter the peninsula over the past weekend.
“Some Western journalists come here and see only negative things, while refusing to see what is happening in Western Ukraine. Nevertheless they try to impose their point of view upon the people of Crimean and accuse them of all deadly sins,” Aksyonov said. “We do not want anyone to provide untruthful information about what is happening in the autonomy. This is why we kindly asked the OSCE guests to leave Crimea,” he said.
The Crimean parliament on Thursday, March 6, ruled to hold a referendum on accession to Russia on March 16. Earlier it was scheduled for March 30. Three questions will be asked during the referendum:
1. Do you support Crimea’s reunification with Russia as its constituent member?
2. Do you support the restoration of the Constitution of the Republic of Crimea of 1992 and the status of Crimea as a part of Ukraine?
The Russian Federation Council said it would support Crimea’s decision to join Russia if its people vote so in the referendum.
Crimean parliament Speaker Volodymyr Konstantinov said Russia had insisted on the presence of observers from international organizations at the referendum.
“Russia, our colleagues in the State Duma and the Federation Council believe that they [observers] should be present. They are working on this now, and our electoral commission is working on this, and there will be observers,” the speaker said.