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Full assistance for Pinoys in Ukraine assured; Crimea votes to join Russia

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) assured Filipinos in Ukraine of full government assistance in light of the political and military tensions in that country.

The assurance was extended during a meeting between a team of DFA-DOLE personnel and more than 40 Ukraine-based Filipinos at Hotel Rus in downtown Kiev on Sunday.

According to the DFA, the team, led by Philippine Ambassador to Russia Alejandro B. Mosquera, discussed with the Filipino community the need for preparedness and the importance of communication with the Embassy amid the volatile situation in Ukraine, also known as the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

The DFA-DOLE team also addressed labor- and immigration-related concerns.

The Filipinos in attendance, on the other hand, expressed their appreciation for the team’s visit and assured Mosquera of their full cooperation in mobilizing the community.

Also present during the meeting were DFA Special Assistant Belinda M. Ante and Labor Attaché David Des Dicang, as well as Third Secretary Jeffrey Angelo Valdez of the Philippine embassy in Moscow.

Current estimates placed the number of Filipinos in Ukraine at 198.

How It Started

Protests in Ukraine began in November 2013, when Ukrainian citizens demanded stronger integration with the European Union.

The demonstrations were prompted by the refusal to sign an association agreement with the EU, which President Yanukovych described as being disadvantageous to Ukraine.

Over time, the wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Ukraine evolved to include calls for the resignation of President Yanukovych and his government.

Violence escalated after January 16, 2014 when the government accepted Bondarenko-Oliynyk laws, also known as Anti-Protest Laws.

Anti-government demonstrators occupied buildings in the center of Kiev, including the Justice Ministry building, and riots left 98 dead and thousands injured on February 18 to 20.

Due to violent protests, members of Parliament found the president unable to fulfill his duties and exercised ‘constitutional powers’ to set an election for 25 May to select his replacement.

It has been claimed that Crimea’s newly-installed leader Sergei Aksyonov sought help from Russian President Vladimir Putin to protect them from the central government.

On March 1, Russia’s parliament approved a request from its president permitting the deployment of Russian troops to Ukraine in response to the Crimean crisis.

At present, pro-Russian troops are said to have complete control over the Crimea.

Russia vowed its troops would stay until the political situation there has been “normalized.”

At the international level, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Canada and the European Union condemned Russia, accusing it of breaking international law and violating Ukrainian sovereignty.

The Philippines has also expressed deep concern over the developments in Ukraine.

In a statement issued earlier this month, the DFA said the Philippine government has joined other nations in calling on all parties to “exercise restraint, not to escalate through the use of force, and follow obligations under international law.”

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario also decided to raise crisis alert level 2 (restriction phase) in Ukraine.

Under crisis alert level 2, Filipinos in Ukraine are advised to restrict non-essential movements, avoid public places, closely monitor developments, and prepare for possible evacuation.

Crimea Votes To Join Russia

Meanwhile, Russian state media said Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to break with Ukraine and join Russia on Sunday, as Kiev accused Moscow of pouring forces into the peninsula and warned separatist leaders “the ground will burn under their feet.”

With over half the votes counted, 95.5 percent had chosen the option of annexation by Moscow, the head of the referendum commission, Mikhail Malyshev, said two hours after polls closed.

Turnout was 83 percent, he added – a high figure, given that many who opposed the move had said they would boycott the vote.

Western powers and leaders in Kiev denounced it as a sham.

Underlining how Moscow’s military takeover of the peninsula two weeks ago has driven Russia and the West into a crisis with echoes of the Cold War, Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama spoke by telephone and, according to the Kremlin, the Russian and US presidents agreed on a need to cooperate to stabilize Ukraine.

“This referendum is contrary to Ukraine’s constitution,” a White House spokesman said. “The international community will not recognize the results of a poll administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention that violates international law.”

The Kremlin said Putin told Obama the referendum was legitimate and he expressed concern about the Ukrainian government’s failure to stamp out violence against Russian speakers in the country. (With a report from Reuters)