WATCH: International observers tried to oversee the vote, but with a heavy military presence, they weren’t allowed. Paul Johnson reports.
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine – Fireworks exploded and Russian flags fluttered above jubilant crowds Sunday after residents in Crimea voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. The United States and Europe condemned the ballot as illegal and destabilizing and were expected to slap sanctions against Russia for it.
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Ukraine’s new government in Kyiv called the referendum a “circus” directed at gunpoint by Moscow – referring to the thousands of Russian troops now in the strategic Black Sea peninsula after seizing it two weeks ago.
But after the polls closed late Sunday, crowds of ethnic Russians in the regional Crimean capital of Simferopol erupted with jubilant chants in the main square, overjoyed at the prospect of once again becoming part of Russia.
The Crimea referendum offered voters the choice of seeking annexation by Russia or remaining in Ukraine with greater autonomy. After 50 per cent of the ballots were counted, Mikhail Malishev, head of the referendum committee, said more than 95 per cent of voters had approved splitting off and joining Russia.
Opponents of secession appeared to have stayed away Sunday, denouncing the vote as a cynical power play and land grab by Russia.
Russia was expected to face strong sanctions Monday by the U.S. and Europe over the vote, which could also encourage rising pro-Russian sentiment in Ukraine’s east and lead to further divisions in this nation of 46 million. Residents in western Ukraine and the capital, Kyiv, are strongly pro-West and Ukrainian nationalist.
The Crimean parliament will meet Monday to formally ask Moscow to be annexed and Crimean lawmakers will fly to Moscow later in the day for talks, Crimea’s pro-Russia prime minister said on 桑拿会所.
In Moscow, the speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament, Sergei Naryshkin, suggested that joining Russia was a done deal.
“We understand that for 23 years after Ukraine’s formation as a sovereign state, Crimeans have been waiting for this day,” Naryshkin was quoted as saying by the state ITAR-Tass news agency.
Russian lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky said the annexation could take “from three days to three months,” according to Interfax.
Some residents in Crimea said they feared the new Ukrainian government that took over when President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia last month will oppress them.
“It’s like they’re crazy Texans in western Ukraine. Imagine if the Texans suddenly took over power (in Washington) and told everyone they should speak Texan,” said Ilya Khlebanov, a voter in Simferopol.
Emotions high in Crimean port of Sevastopol
In Sevastopol, the Crimean port where Russia now leases a major naval base from Ukraine for $98 million a year, more than 70 people surged into a polling station in the first 15 minutes of voting Sunday.
Ukraine’s new prime minister insisted that neither Ukraine nor the West would recognize the vote.
“Under the stage direction of the Russian Federation, a circus performance is underway: the so-called referendum,” Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Sunday. “Also taking part in the performance are 21,000 Russian troops, who with their guns are trying to prove the legality of the referendum.”
WATCH: It’s decision day in Crimea, as Jennifer Madigan reports, it’s the fears of what’s coming next that have many concerned
As soon as the polls closed, the White House again denounced the vote.
“The international community will not recognize the results of a poll administered under threats of violence,” it said in a statement. “Russia’s actions are dangerous and destabilizing.”
Russia raised the stakes Saturday when its forces, backed by helicopter gunships and armoured vehicles, took control of the Ukrainian village of Strilkove and a key natural gas distribution plant nearby- the first Russian military move into Ukraine beyond the Crimean peninsula of 2 million people. The Russian forces later returned the village but kept control of the gas plant.
On Sunday, Ukrainian soldiers were digging trenches and erecting barricades between the village and the gas plant.
“We will not let them advance further into Ukrainian territory,” said Serhiy Kuz, commander of a Ukrainian paratrooper battalion.
Despite the threat of sanctions, Russian President Vladimir Putin has vigorously resisted calls to pull back in Crimea. At the United Nations on Saturday, Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution declaring the referendum illegal. China, its ally, abstained and 13 of the 15 other nations on the council voted in favour.
WATCH: Dozens of Canadians gathered in Ottawa Sunday to protest the Crimea referendum to join Russia by demonstrating a mock referendum in front of the Russian embassy
German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke to Putin by phone Sunday, proposing that an international observer mission in Ukraine be expanded quickly as tensions rise in the east. Her spokesman said she also condemned the Russian seizure of the gas plant.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also spoke and agreed to support constitutional reforms in Ukraine that could ease the tensions, the Russian Foreign Ministry said. Ukraine’s Regional Policy Minister Volodymyr Groisman told The Associated Press the new government was already working on giving towns and regions more autonomy but said there were no plans to turn Ukraine into a federation.
In Donetsk, one of the main cities in eastern Ukraine, pro-Russia demonstrators called Sunday for a referendum similar to the one in Crimea.
In Sevastopol, speakers blared the city anthem up and down the streets but the military threat was not far away – a Russian naval warship still blocked the port’s outlet to the Black Sea, trapping Ukrainian boats.
At a polling station inside a historic school, tears came to Vladimir Lozovoy, a 75-year-old retired Soviet naval officer, as he talked about his vote.
“I want to cry. I have finally returned to my motherland. It is an incredible feeling. This is the thing I have been waiting for for 23 years,” he said.
Tatar minority reject referendum
But Crimea’s large Muslim Tatar minority – whose families had been forcibly removed from their homeland and sent to Central Asia during Soviet times – remained defiant.
The Crimea referendum “is a clown show, a circus,” Tatar activist Refat Chubarov said on Crimea’s Tatar television station. “This is a tragedy, an illegitimate government with armed forces from another country.”
The fate of Ukrainian soldiers trapped in their Crimean bases by pro-Russian forces was still uncertain. But Ukraine’s acting defence minister, Igor Tenyuk, was quoted as saying Sunday that an agreement had been reached with Russia not to block Ukrainian soldiers in Crimea through Friday. It was not clear exactly what that meant.
On the streets of Simferopol, blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flags were nowhere to seen but red, white and blue Russian and Crimean flags fluttered in abundance.
Ethnic Ukrainians interviewed outside the Ukrainian Orthodox cathedral of Vladimir and Olga said they refused to take part in the referendum, calling it an illegal charade stage-managed by Moscow. Some said they were scared of the potential for widespread harassment.
“We’re just not going to play these separatist games,” said Yevgen Sukhodolsky, a 41-year-old prosecutor from Saki, a town outside Simferopol. “Putin is the fascist. The Russian government is fascist.”
Vasyl Ovcharuk, a retired gas pipe layer, predicted dark days ahead for Crimea.
“This will end up in military action, in which peaceful people will suffer. And that means everybody. Shells and bullets are blind,” he said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued the following statement on the results of the Crimean “referendum”:
“The so-called referendum held today was conducted with Crimea under illegal military occupation. Its results are a reflection of nothing more than Russian military control.
“This “referendum” is illegitimate, it has no legal effect, and we do not recognize its outcome. As a result of Russia’s refusal to seek a path of de-escalation, we are working with our G-7 partners and other allies to coordinate additional sanctions against those responsible.
“Any solution to this crisis must respect the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine as well as the constitution of Ukraine. Mr. Putin’s reckless and unilateral actions will lead only to Russia’s further economic and political isolation from the international community.”
Dalton Bennett in Sevastopol, Yuras Karmanau in Strilkove and Jim Heintz and Maria Danilova in Kyiv contributed to this story
WATCH LIVE: Follow Global News’ on-the-ground coverage in Ukraine by Global National correspondents Mike Armstrong, Paul Johnson and Tom Clark.
©2014The Associated Press
(Above: Fletcher Kent reports on the latest developments in Saturday’s condo fire)
EDMONTON – The developer of a southwest Edmonton condo that was destroyed by a fire Saturday morning is blaming arson.
In a statement, Cove Properties says “From the initial review of the footage captured by our security cameras on site, it appears an individual broke into our building early Saturday morning and set one or more fires inside.”
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On Sunday, the developer said he could no longer comment as the Edmonton Police Service had taken over the investigation.
“Right now this is becoming more and more of a police investigation,” said Fire Investigator Daryl Brennan on Monday. “They do have some security video that they are reviewing.”
“We’re trying to look at those areas and see if we can find some kind of trace evidence that might be usable.”
The developer says its security team immediately called 911. Emergency crews arrived at around 3:30 a.m. at the complex, which is located in the area of 10 Ave. and 173 St. southwest.
The condo complex – called Essence at Windermere South – was under construction and there are no reports of anyone being hurt in the blaze.
Cove Properties says there were 79 units in the building, 50 were sold.
Roughly 12 fire trucks were called out to respond, and about 50 fire fighters.
Eight homes were evacuated on the west side of the condo project as a precaution.
“We could actually feel heat through the house,” said Albert Wong, who lives nearby.
“It felt like it was summer time already, at that point.”
“We looked outside and thought, ‘oh, it’s morning already.’ Actually, it’s not, there’s a whole huge ball of fire outside.”
“We left the house quickly grabbed our dogs and our valuables and got in the car and drove off, unfortunately fearing for our home,” Wong added.
“911 was very cooperative,” he told Global News. “They were really on top of things right off the bat.”
“When we opened up the garage door, we felt this big camp fire hitting our face, so it was extremely scary,” said Wong.
“There was a huge explosion that blew off too, when we were leaving the house.”
(Watch the video above: Kelsey Cochrane was in a vehicle travelling past the fire when she captured the footage)
The fire was under control shortly after 4:40 a.m.
Crews say they will let the fire burn out, and try to prevent it from spreading to nearby buildings.
“Something like this, if there’s no risk of life in the structure, we’re going to contain it and try to minimize the damage to nearby structures, surround and drown as we call it,” said District Fire Chief Trevor Whyte.
“The concern that we had was propane, and I think there were four 200-pound propane tanks,” explained Whyte. “That was the cause of the evacuation on these homes.”
Cove Properties says it’s working with police to determine who is responsible for committing the act.
“They’re doing everything that they can do,” said Brennan. “They’re putting up security cameras.”
The developer adds it will rebuild the condo building “immediately.”
Meanwhile, Municipal Affairs Minister Ken Hughes says he’s interested in the results of the investigation.
“If there are learnings out of that, we’ll certainly take those on and take a look.”
It’s a “real concern, obviously, to see people’s potential homes destroyed in a fire like this.”
This isn’t the first fire to destroy a condo that is under construction.
In July 2007, a blaze in MacEwan destroyed a condo complex and several homes around it.
Last September, another fire gutted a building in Rutherford. Investigators have determined both of those were started by an arsonist.
“We’re going to take a good look at all of this because it’s not a pattern we want to see continue,” said Hughes.
WATCH: Toronto’s Ukrainian community keeping close watch on Crimea referendum. Global’s Cindy Pom reports.
TORONTO – Canadians are following the escalating crisis in Ukraine closely on the eve of the Crimea referendum to decide whether the region should be annexed by Moscow.
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Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird issued a statement Saturday saying the Canadian government remains “extremely concerned” about the situation in Ukraine, including acts of violence that have left at least two people dead.
“Such violence is completely deplorable and does not form the basis of a pretext for further violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Baird. “Canada renews its condemnation of Russia’s illegal military intervention on the Crimean peninsula and its continued provocations along the Ukrainian border.”
WATCH: Tensions rise in Crimea as referendum vote approaches between Russia and Ukraine. Paul Johnson reports.
READ MORE: Russian forces seize town outside Crimea border
Earlier Saturday, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution proposed by the U.S. declaring the referendum illegal. The final vote on Saturday was 13 members in favour, China’s abstention, and Russia as a permanent council member using its veto.
“Crimea is part of Ukraine today, it will be part of Ukraine tomorrow, it will be part of Ukraine next week,” said Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. following the vote.
Members of Toronto’s Ukrainian community, some with relatives and friends in Crimea, are worried about the future of the region if it becomes a part of Russia.
For long time family friends Adile and Alie Khalilova who are both Tatar, a Muslim minority in Crimea, they fear their community will be targeted by Russian supporters.
“With pro-Russians here… I feel like Crimean Tatars, we look slightly different, our language is different, I think Crimean Tatars would suffer the most,” said Adile via Skype from Ukraine. “I do not want my president to be Putin. So I’m 100 per cent against that.”
READ MORE: What you should know about Crimea’s referendum
Currently the majority of Crimea’s population are ethnic Russians. Sunday’s referendum ballot will ask voters whether to reunify Crimea with Russia or keep the country as a part of Ukraine.
On Sunday the Ukranian Canadian Congress will hold a rally at Dundas Square in Toronto against the Crimean referendum. The protesters will then march towards the Russian Consulate.
Khalilova, an immigrant from Crimea, says she’ll be joining the protest in support of her friend and to voice her opposition to Russia.
“We try to protect our country just with our heart, and with our brain,” said Khalilova.
*With files from Cindy Pom
MOOSE JAW – Three days after a devastating fire, more than 20 people are trying to put their lives back together.
“We just drove down the street a couple nights ago, and now to see this, it’s devastating,” said Mark Gabel, whose wife’s businesses burned down.
The fire ripped through a historic building late Wednesday night, destroying five businesses and many tenants are now scrambling for a new home.
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“I’m looking at places around town, but without the Red Cross I’d probably be on the street somewhere,” said Chris Hall, a tenant.
The Red Cross extended their 72-hour initial response program until Monday. They’re providing accommodations and working with the Salvation Army to gather donations for the tenants, such as food and clothing.
“Their immediate needs are taken care of, but we’re looking with various agencies and assisting the tenants to move forward and get them reestablished,” said Bill Green of the Canadian Red Cross.
Some community members are hosting fundraising events for those affected.
“Insurance won’t cover everything that was lost,” said Morgan Gabel, whose mother’s businesses burned down. “Being able to raise some money and give it to them right now, I think that would help a lot.”
Morgan set up a Facebook fundraising app for the business-owners, hoping to raise $5,000.
Then on April 3rd, Morgan will host a steak night at Chillers Brew Pub in Moose Jaw to raise money for apartment tenants who lost their homes.
WATCH: Timelapse of the Chicago River being turned green for St. Patrick’s Day (March 15)
CHICAGO – The Chicago River is glowing a bright emerald green Saturday as the city kicks off its St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Thousands of cheering onlookers clustered along downtown bridges as members of Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Union Local 130 began dumping containers of dye into the river from motorboats Saturday morning. The annual tradition began at 9:30 a.m. and immediately precedes the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
GALLERY: Thousands gather to see Chicago River dyed green
The union has done the dyeing since 1962. Organizers had feared that large chunks of ice would impede the process, but recent warm temperatures kept the river clear. The hue typically lasts about six to 12 hours.
The parade began at noon. The route winds through downtown and ends at the landmark Buckingham Fountain.
A second parade on the city’s South Side takes place Sunday.
©2014The Canadian Press
Watch the video above: Aboriginal police recruits reach all time high in Saskatoon
SASKATOON – The Saskatoon Police Service, dignitaries and RCMP attended SIAST’s Aboriginal Police Preparation Program graduation on Friday in Saskatoon.
Jazmyne Black was honoured to graduate from the program. Her dad was an RCMP officer and she hopes to follow in his footsteps.
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Aboriginal woman becomes top cop in Saskatchewan as head of RCMP division
“Because of him, it inspired me to become somebody like him. He has a good head on his shoulders and he’s very knowledgeable. He just makes me feel determined to be a better person,” she explained.
Officers like Black’s dad helped to pave the way for future generations.
Ernie Louttit is a retired officer from the Saskatoon Police Service, he joined the force in 1987.
“When I first started with Saskatoon police, I was the third native officer, and there was an old boys’ club. And they didn’t want to work with women, they didn’t want to work with natives,” said Louttit.
He also encountered backlash from the aboriginal community.
“It was both ways, so a lot of native people would call me an ‘apple’ – like I was red on the outside and white on the inside, and that I was betraying my people by being a police officer,” Louttit explained.
Several decades later, Saskatoon police not only embraces diversity, but says it’s essential.
“It helps our officers understand the diversity, understand the culture, and hopefully come up with some solutions to some of the issues we’ve had historically,” said police chief Clive Weighill.
Saskatoon police has joined forces with several groups around the province to form the Saskatchewan Police Aboriginal Recruiting Committee.
“We’re up now to about 11 per cent composition of either First Nations or Métis, so that’s come up from about four or five per cent beginning at the year 2000,” said Weighill.
The Saskatoon Police Service says it’s not easy for anyone to become an officer and that its rigorous application process catches many applicants off-guard. But those with the right skills and determination make it through.
The service hopes 16 per cent of its force will be aboriginal by 2020.
Members of the Squamish Yacht Club had an up-close encounter with orcas hunting dolphins in Blind Channel Saturday.
Gord Gunner said he he was walking his dog near Blind Channel at around 11:30 a.m. when he saw a pod of 100 to 200 white-sided dolphins swim into the bay.
Gunner said he then spotted a group of 12 to 15 orcas swimming at the mouth of the channel, seemingly trapping dozens of the dolphins inside.
A few of the orcas then swam into the channel and started “playing” with the dolphins, leaping into the air with the smaller mammals in their mouths before eating them.
The sight garnered hundreds of onlookers Saturday afternoon. By 3 p.m., Gunner said there were hundreds of vehicles parked in the area to see the demonstration of the circle of life.
PHOTOS: Dolphins and orcas in Blind Channel
On Thursday, Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue volunteers were out on the water in southern Howe Sound, between Fisherman’s Cove and Bowen Island, when hundreds of dolphins surrounded their boat.
WATCH: Raw video of dolphins in Howe Sound
EDMONTON – The on-going power struggle in the Alberta Conservative Party continued Saturday in Calgary, and it appears Premier Alison Redford is still firmly in charge.
Premier Redford attended a meeting of Alberta Tory executives at the Clarion Hotel in Calgary.
“The premier did an excellent job. She didn’t back away from any of the rather hard hitting questions that she was asked, and she was very frank with us, as we were very frank with her,” said Jim McCormick, PC Party president.
Story continues below
MLA Len Webber quits Tory caucus, slams Redford
Premier Redford reacts to PC party executive’s call for her resignation
Redford to pay back South Africa trip expenses
McCormick called it a wide-ranging “no holds barred” meeting. The questions ranged from the $45,000 in travel expenses the premier announced this week she would reimburse, to accusations of bullying made by Calgary MLA Len Webber who on Friday announced his departure from caucus.
“This has not been a highlight of a week for behavior or very mature conversation on a lot of levels,” said Redford.
“I think a lot of people were quite emotional, probably said a lot of things that they regret, and I think it’s time for us to move and start talking about what matters to Albertans which is the future of the province.”
But at least one constituency president would like the PC Party to move on without Redford as leader.
On Friday, Steve Robson, the head of a PC riding association in northeast Edmonton, called for Redford’s resignation.
“It appears to me from a number of sources that Alison Redford is not the least bit interested in input from elected MLAs or what the constituents of the MLA’s have to say,” said Robson.
Redford says she is listening to what people are saying.
“I work very hard to work with people, to bring people together and I’ll continue to do that. Whether that means everyone is going to have an opinion of me that is exactly the same, I can’t comment on that. I mean, we don’t agree on absolutely everything, but I do my best every day.”
Saturday’s meeting didn’t produce any requests for the premier’s resignation.
“The premier got a standing ovation. Absolutely everybody was on their feet. This conversation that we had today was incredible,” said McCormick.
With files from Global News Carolyn Kury De Castillo
TORONTO – Kevin Spacey has fired the latest salvo in the social media spat between Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his city councillor brother Doug Ford.
The two-time Oscar-winning actor tweeted a crudely edited group photo of himself with the Fords Saturday morning.
When did Mayor Ford start doing what people tell him to do? All you had to do was ask, guys. Here’s your pic. pic.twitter杭州夜网/DtDTqAl8Lb
— Kevin Spacey (@KevinSpacey) March 15, 2014
Spacey’s tweet was in response to the most recent episode of Ford Nation, the YouTube show produced by the brothers.
During the segment, Doug Ford alleged that while the mayor was waiting to appear on late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live, the Fords were told they couldn’t talk to or take a picture with Spacey, who is currently starring in House of Cards.
WATCH: Doug Ford calls actor Kevin Spacey an “arrogant S.O.B.”
Doug Ford said while Spacey is “an incredible actor,” he also thinks the star is “an arrogant S.O.B.”
He says Spacey should get off his “high horse and be real and take pictures with people.”
Rob Ford took a more muted approach, saying he doesn’t watch movies and wouldn’t know Spacey if he ran over him.
Spacey is a two-time Oscar winner (The Usual Suspects, American Beauty) and a frequent guest of the Toronto International Film Festival. He made the 2010 movie Casino Jack in Toronto.
WATCH: Kevin Spacey takes a shot at Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on Jimmy Kimmel Live
Spacey, who appeared on Kimmel’s show ahead of the mayor’s main appearance, was asked about sharing a dressing room with the controversial politician to which he responded: “Well, he threw up all over it, but those are the chances you take.”
– with files by Global News
The Fords strike back at opponents in episode 2 of Ford Nation
©2014The Canadian Press
Watch the video above: Photo exhibit reflects crisis in Ukraine
SASKATOON – This week a photographic exhibition is being held at the Musee Ukraina Museum in Saskatoon.
It depicts the crisis in Ukraine and the exhibition is also a fundraiser to support the families of those impacted by the violence overseas.
There’s anger and heartache in some of the photos taken in Kyiv, but in others, there’s hope.
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Province donating $60K humanitarian aid to Ukraine
Crimeans overwhelmingly vote to leave Ukraine, join Russia
The exhibit’s curator Taras Polataiko is a renowned Ukrainian-Canadian artist. He reached out to six photographers in Kyiv and asked them to send him their photos.
Polataiko says the shots are filled with protesters who never wanted turmoil, only freedom.
“These are not soldiers. They are people like me and you. You have to decide if you’re going to be a slave, or stand up for your dignity,” he explained.
In early March, the Saskatchewan government pledged $60,000 for humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
“We have a very strong Ukrainian community and a very strong organized community, and just within the last couple of weeks we’ve come together with the opportunity to host this event, and the museum definitely wanted to be a participant,” said Martin Hyniuk, Musee Ukraina board member.
Crimea is set to hold a referendum on Sunday on whether to merge with Russia.
Russia vetoed a UN resolution declaring Sunday’s referendum illegal.
READ MORE: Crimea votes on Ukraine split
“What’s happening in Crimea right now, it’s unconstitutional, and I can’t begin to fathom that another government can come in and step in the way that Russia is right now,” said Andrea Kopylech, with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’ Saskatoon branch.
She said local Ukrainian-Canadians are left praying that democracy and freedom will eventually prevail.
The exhibition will run every night at 7 p.m. until March 21.