DENVER (CBS4) – People in Crimea are celebrating a vote to break with Ukraine and join Russia. About 96 percent of voters favored it Sunday. The decision came just two weeks after Russian troops seized the peninsula.
President Barack Obama condemned the move in a phone call to Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying the international community will never recognize the referendum. Leaders in the West are considering economic sanctions to punish Russia.
In Denver people came out as Crimea residents were faced with a vote with Russian troops in their midst. Ihor Figlus stood on the steps of the Capitol Sunday rallying for peace and unity in Ukraine.
“The territorial integrity of Ukraine has been violated,” Figlus said. “If anybody knows what’s on the ballot, there’s only two questions. Basically, translated it would be, ‘Do you want to join Russia now, or do you want to join Russia later?’ ”
Thousands of miles away a majority of Crimeans voted to join Russia.
“I have tears in my eye, I want to cry. This is a very emotional day. I voted for Russia, we are finally going home,” a Crimea resident said.
Figlus said the outcome was one they anticipated.
Figlus’ group is not alone in their opposition. Members of the Byzantine Catholic Church in Denver have family members in the region. Father Michael O’Loughlin says many fear oppression and persecution if Russia decides to move any deeper into Ukraine.
“If they can come in and invade Crimea, what’s to keep them from invading the rest of Ukraine? And that’s what the people are very, very worried about,” O’Loughlin said.
Both the United States and the European Union say the vote is illegitimate and have threatened Russia with sanctions. Figlus says those threats may no longer be enough.
“We should’ve gone beyond threatening a long time ago,” he said.