Russian President Vladimir Putin’s human rights advisory council briefly published a document detailing unofficial results of the Crimea referendum that are much lower than official results the Kremlin released in March.
The widely reported results, provided by the head of the referendum election commission, declared that 97% of Ukrainians voted for Crimea to secede to Russia. The reported turnout was 83.1%.
And now the website of the “President of Russia’s Council on Civil Society and Human Rights” has published a statement saying that only 30% to 50% of the Crimean population voted, and only 50-60% chose for annexation to Russia.
The data come from an unofficial survey in Crimea conducted by a fact-finding mission of three human rights advocates who met with public officials, clergy, journalists, public figures, lawyers, human rights activists, and citizens from April 15 to 18.
The information has been removed from the official Presidential website, but it is still live on the council’s website. The Interpreter, which analysed of the report, noted that is was likely “removed from view and easy access due to its critical findings on a number of topics.”
But the criticism is still live on a Russian government website.
“Members of the council can post anything on the site of the council independently,” Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov told Business Insider over email. “So … if [the Kremlin wants to] remove that from the site, they first need to expel the authors from the council.”
The results of the unofficial poll imply that only 15-30% of the Crimean population voted for Russia annexing the Ukrainian peninsula, and that’s when Russian soldiers with big guns oversaw the vote.
That may seem low, but it is much more believable than 82% of Crimea voting in favour given that most native Crimean Tatars (13% of the total population) and many of the ethnic Ukrainians (25% of the population) boycotted the referendum. Ethnic Russians who were formerly citizens of Ukraine compose about 58% of Crimea’s population.
Here are those numbers again:
Official Kremlin results: 97% for annexation, turnout of 83%, and 82% of all Crimeans voting in favour.
Putin’s Human Rights Council Report: 50-60% for annexation, turnout 30-50%, and 15-30% of all Crimeans voting in favour.
There are several damning observations in the report, including the notion that people voted for Russia to stop the lawlessness brought by “henchman” from the eastern region of Donestk.
And Council member Svetlana Gannushkina gave an interview to Turkey’s Kanal 24 — reproduced by TSN News in Ukraine — during which she said that the sham Crimean vote “discredited Russia more than could be dreamed up by a foreign agent,” as reported by Paul Gregory in Forbes.
There’s another indication that Putin’s human rights council is not on the same page as the president: The body has also offered to become a partner of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to enter Ukraine and organise talks between conflicting parties.
OSCE observers were recently kidnapped by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, and Putin secured their release. Intercepted phone calls between Putin’s special envoy, Vladimir Lukin, and a suspected undercover Russian military officer named Colonel Igor Girkin (aka Igor Strelkov), who is the military commander of Ukraine’s separatist guerrillas, detail plans to release the kidnapped international observers.
Rebels in the east Ukraine region of Donetsk — where Col. Girkin’s forces are fighting Ukrainian soldiers — have demanded a May 11 referendum for self-determination of the region. Significantly, about 70% of southeast Ukraine does not support the gunman taking over the region.
So Crimea is becoming Russian territory, despite what appears to be a sham election, while the entire south and east of the country are engulfed in violence incited by pro-Russian pressure and suspected Russian special forces.
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