16 March, 13:57

No infringements of freedoms and incredibly high turnout at Crimean referendum - observers

No infringements of freedoms and incredibly high turnout at Crimean referendum - observers

One of the international observers at the referendum which is currently under way at the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine, Enrique Ravello from Spain, notes that the voters’ turnout at the referendum is “incredibly high”. This referendum is being held to reflect people’s opinion on whether Crimea should remain a part of Ukraine or separate from it.

“I have visited three polling stations,” Mr. Ravello says, “and I saw that as a rule, the voting is going on quite normally. In a radical departure from what some Western media sources are saying, nobody is putting pressure on anyone about how he or she should vote. Nobody is creating any obstacles to anyone from the point of view of the freedom of movement. By all appearances, people are feeling themselves quite free. They have all the necessary conditions to freely express their will.”

“Some Italian media sources are saying that the airport of Simferopol, the capital of the Crimean autonomy, is allegedly controlled by Russian troops,” Enrique Ravello continues, “but I didn’t see even a single Russian serviceman. However, I was detained by the Ukrainian police for 3 hours, and another observer, from Belgium, - for 6 hours.”

Enrique Ravello is a representative of Catalonia in the Spanish parliament.

“On November 9, Catalonia is also planning to hold a referendum on whether to remain a part of Spain or not,” he says. “However, the Spanish government is trying not to let Catalonians hold such a referendum. Nevertheless, many people in Catalonia are still going to hold it.”

“It looks like there is more freedom in Crimea than in Catalonia,” Mr. Ravello concludes. “The example of Crimea will inspire the Catalonians who want to freely express their will.”

People actively vote around Crimea - head of referendum organizing commission

All of the 1,205 polling stations have opened in Crimea, Mikhail Malyshev, chairman of the commission in charge of preparations for the referendum in Crimea, said. "We have received information that all of the 1,205 polling stations have opened and are now working," he told a press conference in Simferopol on Sunday morning.

Malyshev said there are some problems caused by the weather conditions in the Chernomorsky district, where land phone lines are temporarily not working, and two polling stations in the Belogorsky district (Districts 54 and 55) have no power supply, but Krymenergo brigades are already on their way there. He also said one station in the Belogorsky district opened late, but it is now working.

"People actively come to cast their votes at the referendum. Monitors have left for the polling stations and territories where they planned to go and no obstacles are created," Malyshev said.

Crimean independence referendum begins

People in Crimea get today a chance to decide on their future: whether to stay as a part of Ukraine on conditions of wide autonomy or become an integral part of Russia. According to polls of 600 residents taken Thursday and Friday ahead of the referendum, 70% of the residents said they will vote to become part of Russia, while 11 percent said they will vote to restore Crimea’s status as part of Ukraine.

According to AFP, the first voters have already entered polling stations in the regional capital Simferopol. Reporters also saw a score of people coming out to vote in Bakhchysaray, the centre of Crimea's Muslim Tatar community.

The polling stations of 27 regional Crimea election commissions are going to be open all day long, starting from 8am till 8pm (0600 GMT- 1800 GMT). Up to 1.5 million – this is the number of ballots printed for the referendum – Crimea citizens are expected come to cast their votes in favor of independence or against it.

Moreover, Crimean authorities stated that 135registered international observers from 23 EU countries had come to follow the elections themselves.

Members of the EU and national European parliaments, international law experts and human rights activists together with 1,240 local observers are monitoring the voting at ballot stations. Mass media in the peninsula is represented by 623 accredited journalists from 169 international media outlets.

Recently, more than 10 000 members of the region’s military formed self-defense squads, and over 5,000 police officers are ensuring the referendum goes smoothly.

Read More:

Crimean referendum fully in line with UN Charter - Russian FM Lavrov

US refuses to listen to voice of reason over Ukraine crisis - Moscow

US willing to politicize situation in Ukraine as much as possible - Moscow

Russia vetoes UN resolution on Crimea, China abstains

Voice of Russia, RIA, AFP, Interfax,TASS

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