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9 Mar, 2014 11:08

​Why referendum? Crimeans speak out on Ukraine

A referendum in Crimea will say in a week if the region wants more autonomy from Kiev, or if it sees itself a part of Russia. RT’s Paula Slier asked residents of Crimea’s capital whether they want to have the region’s status changed and, if so, why.

Many in the Black Sea peninsula are refusing to recognize the self-proclaimed authorities in Kiev, RT found out. Violent seizure of government buildings and bloodshed on the streets – that’s how Crimeans see recent events in Kiev.

The government in power is not democratic because they had a revolution in an armed way so that everything it orders is not legal,” Aleksandr Mukharev, a writer told Paula Slier.

As the country remains bitterly divided between the EU-supporting west and pro-Russia east, Crimeans have doubts that people, who have come to power, will represent the interests of both the sides.

One of the first decisions by the new government – to revoke the law on minority languages, which includes Russian, – only contributed to Crimeans’ worries.

Their mission is not to promote the Ukrainian language as much as suppress the Russian language and everything that is not Ukrainian,” believes Aleksey Vakulenko, a citizen journalist.

97 percent of Crimeans speak Russian. They weren’t happy, when Russian disappeared from government websites and fear that Russian TV channels might soon be banned. There have also been cases of Russian journalists being denied access to the country, something Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov slammed on Saturday.

The news of far right political forces gaining prominence in Kiev is another source of concern for Crimeans. The interim Kiev government has six ministers – including the deputy prime minister, Aleksandr Sych, – from the nationalist Svoboda party.

Reasons for Crimea joining Russia are far from ideological for Lianu Stepanova, a flower seller.

The prices will be lower and the salaries will be higher,” she believes.

The east and southeast of Ukraine have never quite embraced the partnership deal with the EU, bearing in mind austerity cuts weaker economies there have to implement. Now the West is promising economic aid through the International Monetary Fund. The prospect of Ukrainians having to tighten their belts is ever more real, as the assistance comes under the strictest of conditions.

To learn more of the moods on the streets of Simferopol, watch RT Paula Slier’s report from the Crimean capital.