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article imageOp-Ed: The Crimea referendum and International observers

By Ken Hanly     Mar 22, 2014 in Politics
Simferopol - Many but not all western reports on the Crimean referendum say little or nothing about the presence of international observers of the Crimean referendum of March 16, in which voters overwhelmingly chose the option of joining Russia.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) tried to send monitors into Crimea long before the referendum to observe events. However, since the organization did not recognize the de facto Crimean government it did not request permission and was turned back three times — but not before providing a few photo ops for reporters. A UN envoy also on a monitoring mission was sent packing since he had no permission from the existing government.
The Crimean government subsequently invited OSCE monitors in to observe the referendum but again since the OSCE did not recognize the de facto government of the Crimea, the invitation was not accepted or even recognized as such. The chair of the OSCE ruled out sending observers and said:
“The referendum due to take place in Crimea on March 16, 2014 runs counter the Ukrainian Constitution and should be considered illegitimate.”
In an attempt to provide show the international community that at least the process was within international norms, the Crimean government sought to ensure that there were international observers as well as western reporters present during the vote: Russia-24 also reports that 135 foreign observers from 23 nationalities have been accredited as well as 623 journalists from 169 mass medias. Russia-24 also reported that apart from foreign observers there will be 1240 Crimean observers.
Russian sources such as itar-tass and this site go into detail about the observers but most western sites unless they support the annexation say little or nothing.
Global Research is a good example of a western source that supports the referendum and who reported on the observers: Contrary to the reports of 135 international observers from 23 countries, the Western media in chorus has suggested without a shred of evidence that the elections were rigged and that Crimea was under Russian military occupation.
The observer mission reports which include members of the European Parliament have been casually ignored by the mainstream Western media: Mateus Piskorkski, the leader of the European observers’ mission and Polish MP: “Our observers have not registered any violations of voting rules.”
One complaint in much of the western media is that there was no way to say NO to annexation on the ballot. This is simply untrue as I demonstrate in this article. Another contention is that the original decision of the Crimean parliament to turf out the old government and create a new one that declared independence was done while the parliament was surrounded by and occupied by armed pro-Russian gunmen. This is true but ignores the relevant fact that the parliament tried to do the same thing the previous day but could not because they were interrupted by pro-Ukrainian protesters. In order to pass the legislation the Crimean parliament needed the gunmen to keep the Ukrainians from repeating what happened the day before. The Ukrainians storming of parliament was dutifully recorded by Radio Free Europe but this bit of information seems to be left out in almost all subsequent reports of what happened in the western press.
Both sides in this dispute are bound and determined to leave out relevant detail. For example, the report of one group of monitors the Eurasian Observatory for Democracy and Elections has a glowing report on the referendum processes: The International Mission of independent international observers considers that voting and counting of votes on the referendums in the Republic of Crimea and in the city of Sevastopol took place in accordance to the international election standards and the approved rules of its carrying, in maintenance of the principles of universal and equal right for participation in the referendums at ballot, principles of openness, publicity, justice and a transparency. The results of referendum are honest and reflect will of participants of a referendum.
However, most persons willing to observe would be those already willing to recognize the Crimea and the legitimacy of the vote since by monitoring the vote they give it legitimacy. The EODE is itself hardly a non-partisan organization as described in Wikipedia: Eurasian Observatory for Democracy & Elections (EODE) is an election monitoring organization led by the Belgian far-right activist Luc Michel.[1] Since its founding in 2006, it provided monitoring missions to Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Caucasus, Balkans, the Black Sea region, and North Africa.[2] It financed some of the official 2014 Crimean referendum monitors, including Stanislav Berkovec, Milan Šarapatka, and Miloslav Soušek.[3]
At least many of the monitors were no doubt biased and the report of the EODE is so positive that it is positively annoying. Nevertheless in spite of all the warts in the process I expect that the referendum does express the will of the majority of the Crimeans. Of course this means nothing to the west since the west is committed to international law and the territorial integrity of nations, that is when it suits western interests.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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