Polls close on Crimea secession vote

Posted at: 03/16/2014 3:32 PM
Updated at: 03/17/2014 3:51 PM
By: Dan Bazile

The polls have closed in Crimea. Sunday, voters were to decide whether or not to leave Ukraine and join Russia. The vote is widely expected to transfer control of the Black Sea peninsula to Russia.

Most Crimeans are ethnically Russian. Kiev calls the vote illegal and western governments, including the U.S., have threatened sanctions on Russia if it goes through.

The measure has triggered the worst east to west crisis since the cold war.

Kate Graney is part of the faculty at Skidmore College, specializing in Russia, the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and ethnic conflict.

She says the vote in Crimea only appears to give residents a choice whether to join Russia.

“The way Russia has precipitated this vote with the introduction of troops, the blanketing of propaganda. I think you will see an overwhelming vote for joining Russia,” says Graney.

Graney says the worst case scenario is if Russian president Vladimir Putin decides to continue on.

“They may say wow, this worked well. Let's continue to destabilize the government in Kiev and add territory to Russia,” she says.

Graney says the crisis is very complex because it's personal, historical and political at the same time. She says it very difficult for Putin and many Russians to take that Ukranians are separate and want to be more like Europe.

“Some fear that if Ukraine moves more towards the West, Russian citizens might start thinking that as well,” Graney explains.

All that political intricacy is wrapped around a lot of history going back centuries, and we're seeing it all unfolding again, Graney says. But she's not sure exactly where this conflict is headed.

The United States and Europe condemned the Crimea vote as illegal, and threated with sanctions, among other measures.