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Russia has defended its takeover of Crimea on the grounds that it is protecting the majority of Russians who live in the region. This is the same thing Russia claimed upon occupying and annexing the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008.
On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, at United Nations meetings in Geneva, said, "This is a question of defending our citizens and compatriots, ensuring human rights, especially the right to life."
But actually, the most recent poll by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology shows that a majority of Crimeans are against a union with Russia, and that no region of Ukraine wishes to be reunited with the Russian Federation.
Just 41 percent of Crimeans in the poll taken between February 8 and 18 wanted to become part of Russia.
In the Donetsk region, just 33 percent supported joining Russia. The numbers are even smaller in other parts of the country. In Ukraine as a whole, only 13 percent said they wanted unification with Putin's Russia.
On the other hand, having 40 percent of the population wishing to leave suggests that a referendum on the matter is appropriate. Scotland, for example, is having a referendum this year on independence from Britain, even though polls show just 32 percent support for independence. But with the might of the Russian army already occupying Crimea, can any referendum on the matter be seen as legitimate? I doubt it — if Russian soldiers with machine guns were standing outside your house, would you feel comfortable voting against their presence there?
The fact that the majority of Crimeans and the vast majority of Ukrainians are against reunification with Russia really undermines the attempts of the Putin regime to justify their occupation of Crimea. This is a baseless land grab, nothing more.