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U.S., UK will not recognize Crimea vote to split from Ukraine

The U.S. and the British governments on Sunday refused to recognize the results of a rushed, Russian-sponsored vote for Crimea to split from Ukraine and join Russia, a measure saying in a statement Sunday the international community will “not stand quitely by” the land grab. Sen. Dick Durbin D-Ill. back from a two-day visit to Kiev on Sunday said it was a “lame excuse” for Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade the region. (Complete White House statement below)

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, “Nothing in the way that the referendum has been conducted should convince anyone that it is a legitimate exercise.”

“First, this election or referendum is a lame excuse by Putin to invade Crimea and take it over,” Durbin said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“You know, when you move in thousands of Russian troops from Sochi Olympics to garrison their positions in Crimea, then to have these masked gunmen with automatic weapons and no insignia roaming the streets, what a– what a delightful election atmosphere. This is a Soviet-style election, we know what– what the ending is going to be. Now the west has to decide– not just the west, but the civilized world has to decide whether we’re going to do anything to stop Putin’s design,” he said.

The returns build more pressure on the U.S. and European allies to bolster the interim government in Ukraine while trying to figure out how to contain Putin’s expansionist ambitions. Secretary of State John Kerry told his Russian counterpart, that “nothing in the way that the referendum has been conducted should convince anyone that it is a legitimate exercise.”

After the vote, the White House said it will not recognize the results.

In a statement the White House said, “the United States has steadfastly supported the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ukraine since it declared its independence in 1991, and we reject the “referendum” that took place today in the Crimean region of Ukraine. This referendum is contrary to Ukraine’s constitution, and the international community will not recognize the results of a poll administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention that violates international law.

No decisions should be made about the future of Ukraine without the Ukrainian government. Moreover, this vote was not necessary. The Ukrainian government has made clear its willingness to discuss increased autonomy for Crimea, and the presidential elections planned for May 25 provide a legitimate opportunity for all Ukrainians to make their voices heard on the future of their country.

In addition, Ukraine, the United States, the EU, the OSCE, the UN, and others have called for Russia to allow international monitors into the Crimean peninsula to ensure that the rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine are being upheld. Russia has spurned those calls as well as outreach from the Ukrainian government and instead has escalated its military intervention into Crimea and initiated threatening military exercises on Ukraine’s eastern border.

Russia’s actions are dangerous and destabilizing. The UN Security Council recognized this in a vote yesterday that only Russia opposed. As the United States and our allies have made clear, military intervention and violation of international law will bring increasing costs for Russia – not only due to measures imposed by the United States and our allies but also as a direct result of Russia’s own destabilizing actions.

In this century, we are long past the days when the international community will stand quietly by while one country forcibly seizes the territory of another. We call on all members of the international community to continue to condemn such actions, to take concrete steps to impose costs, and to stand together in support of the Ukrainian people and Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”