The tone of a news conference with international election monitors in Crimea turned decidedly anti-American Saturday, when Serge Trifković, an American foreign affairs analyst of Serbian origin, criticized the United States' involvement in the upcoming referendum.
"Nobody asked the people of Crimea if they wanted to be transferred from the Russian Federation within the USSR to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic," Trifković said.
He added that it’s "richly ironic” U.S. leaders appear to be upholding the Soviet Communist Party’s legacy by insisting Crimea must remain part of Ukraine, while Russian President Vladimir Putin is “upholding the right of people to self-determination and liberty."
There are 135 independent observers from 23 countries in Crimea to monitor the referendum vote scheduled for Sunday, in which citizens will decide whether to join Russia or remain an autonomous region in Ukraine.
The United States has sought to delay the vote.
Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday said Russia will face sanctions if it supports the referendum and has warned of "an even greater response" if Russia sends troops into eastern Ukraine.
Trifković said he believes the vote is a democratic one.
"Well, he's got another thing coming, the leader of the free world," he said of President Obama. "Because as it happens, this peninsula will herald a new era in international relations."
— Jamie Novogrod and Becky Bratu
First published March 15 2014, 1:28 PM