Ukraine braced yesterday for a breakaway vote in Crimea as deadly violence flared again in the ex-Soviet country’s tinderbox east amid the biggest East-West showdown since the Cold War.
The second successive day of deadly unrest that has claimed at least three lives in the mainly Russian-speaking east came hours after Moscow — its forces already in control of Crimea and conducting snap drills at Ukraine’s eastern border — warned that it reserved the right to “protect” compatriots throughout its neighbor.
US Secretary of State John Kerry had on Friday failed to either avert today’s ballot in Crimea or win Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov’s assurance that Moscow may delay annexing the Black Sea region that Ukraine received as a “gift” from then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954.
The rugged peninsula of 2 million mostly Russian speakers is widely expected to vote to split from Ukraine and join Russia after its lawmakers declared independence from Kiev earlier this month.
The referendum comes in direct response to three months of deadly protests which on Feb. 22 toppled the pro-Kremlin former president and brought to power a new nationalist European-leaning team in Kiev, infuriating Moscow, which views Ukraine as its strategic sphere of influence and wants to retain influence over its former Soviet satellite.
Kiev has denounced the Crimean vote as illegal, but is also warily watching as similar separatist sentiments are being fanned by Moscow supporters in other industrial regions in mostly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, which has deep cultural and trade ties to Russia.
Yet Moscow — whose troops took effective control of Crimea in the days after the Ukrainian president’s Feb. 22 fall — strongly backs the referendum, despite a new round of painful sanctions against top Russian officials that Washington and EU nations are expected to unveil tomorrow.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said he expected to sign in Brussels on Friday the political portion of an historic EU Association Agreement, whose rejection in November last year by the deposed government sparked the initial Kiev unrest.
The Czech Republic’s Senate on Wednesday passed a resolution that supports a possible visit by the senate president to Taiwan. The resolution, initiated by Czech Senator Pavel Fischer, was passed with 50 votes in favor, one against and one abstention. The resolution blasts Beijing for having its Prague embassy send a letter to former Czech Senate president Jaroslav Kubera earlier this year threatening repercussions for Czech businesses if he visited Taiwan. The resolution shows the Senate’s support for a visit to Taiwan by Senate President Milos Vystrcil, accompanied by Czech business representatives, as the visit would be in the diplomatic long-term interests
The government and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday both spoke out against plans by the Chinese government to enact a national security law in Hong Kong. Chinese officials yesterday confirmed that the National People’s Congress would review a bill “on establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to safeguard national security.” The Presidential Office said that the announcement was evidence that the “one country, two systems” framework fundamentally clashes with democratic freedoms. The de-escalation of tensions between Hong Kong and Beijing relies on the Chinese government’s willingness to respond to Hong Kongers’ demands,
STRONGER DEFENSES: The announcement could be considered tacit US support for the nation’s indigenous arms manufacturing program, Joseph Wu told lawmakers Just hours after President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) inauguration on Wednesday, the US Department of State’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced in Washington the possible sale of 18 MK-48 Heavy Weight Torpedoes to Taiwan. Reacting to the announcement, Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) yesterday told a meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee that the ministry applauded the US move, which would help to uphold the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). The TRA states that the US should “provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character … to maintain the capacity of the US to resist any resort
NPP WARNING: The NPP’s chairman said that a security law proposed by Beijing means it has renounced its promise to maintain ‘one country, two systems’ in HK The Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) yesterday proposed changing the law to provide protection for those seeking political asylum. China at the opening of the National People’s Congress in Beijing on Thursday introduced a draft security law for Hong Kong to ban treason, subversion and sedition, with a review expected next week. TPP caucus whip Jang Chyi-lu (張其祿) said that the party is concerned about democracy advocates in Hong Kong and has taken action to support them. The party has proposed an amendment to Article 18 of the Act Governing Relations with Hong Kong and Macau (香港澳門關係條例), which stipulates that the government can offer