Crimea looks to be moving rapidly toward joining Russia after the Crimean Parliament declared independence from Ukraine.
Monday, President Obama announced sanctions against seven Russian officials and questioned the legitimacy of the referendum. The administration said it's gotten reports the ballots from Sunday's vote came "pre-marked."
Ukranians in the Tennessee Valley are calling for tougher action against Russia to save Ukraine's sovereignty. They said news from Ukraine is a bitter confirmation of what they've been afraid would happen.
"It's a parallel to Hitler's move exactly," said Ukranian immigrant Mykola Pawluk. With Russian troops effectively in control in the Crimean Penninsula, Pawluk said the situation in his homeland is looking grim.
Tatyana Malyarenko's parents are still in Ukraine. "They're very concerned and alarmed and don't know what's going to happen in the future. And the west sits," she said.
Both worry that Sunday's referendum, in which ethnic Russians in Crimea apparently voted for their region to become part of Russia will be a pretext for more, deeper Russian intervention.
"We don't know how the referendum was taking place. Were people threatened?" asked Malyarenko.
"There was no vote," said Pawluk. "It was ‘here's a ballot. Throw it in.' They were guarded by soldiers. They weren't allowed to do what they'd want to do."
Pawluk said limited sanctions against Russia by the US and the European Union so far are a disappointment, and while Russia does have the power to wreak havoc with sanctions of its own, it's time for countries that speak about freedom to take more action.
"It might be a little difficult, but I think that if the west wants to survive the future, it needs to have a little toughness right now," he said.
Malyarenko holds out hope that Ukraine's Russians will unite with the country's other ethnic groups: Georgians, Tatars and Ukranians, instead of throwing in with Russia. "They need to work together and stay together because changing the passport will not change things. You have to be able to work together and build a future together," she said.
Pawluk said if the Russians cannot be deterred, there are four more provinces in eastern Ukraine the Russians would be ready to roll into and take over.
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