Europe

From #Crimea, the night before the vote

  • 16 March 2014
  • From the section Europe
A vodka toast at the start of the evening

Gleb and Lyosha (not their real names) are old mates, both Russian in all things but their passports, who have lived in Sevastopol all their lives.

Now in their middle years, Gleb is an artist and Lyosha an ex-military type. Tonight we are eavesdropping as they gather for a bite to eat and a drink in Gleb's flat.

It's an important night in these guys' lives, the eve of the controversial referendum that could see Crimea secede from Ukraine to Russia.

For Gleb it would mean the end of his dream of EU values like the rule of law and transparency. Lyosha would prefer to stay in Ukraine but with full autonomy for Crimea.

Here are the edited highlights from the night in tweets and images. (All times are listed in GMT.)

20:08 The debate starts

The discussion in Gleb's flat begins with Led Zeppelin's Stairway To Heaven and Gillas' Jonny on the stereo, before both men sing a chorus of the Beatles' hit And I Love Her.

And the table of snacks was looking good, too.

Initial questions from twitter followers are answered that, yes, Marmalade the cat is in attendance and, yes, there is salo - a traditional East European snack of pork fat - available to eat.

21:02 The talk gets serious

Lyosha replies: The disaster happened already, and some time ago.

Gleb: You know you need to do something but haven't the heart to do it. It's a kind of stupor. God grant everything is different tomorrow.

Kamya K Edmund tweets: As we all sleep..let's pray for the situation in #crimea #muhziki

Mel Huang tweets: Do most of the "silent majority" of Russians in Crimea really want anything like what #Putin is planning?

Gleb replies: Those who want to make money don't want to join Russia. Those who want their pensions, and the spineless slaves, do.

Lyosha: Most Russians here do want to join Russia. And they are not dumb. It's the others who are dumb.

21:58 The crux of the matter

Bridget Mellor tweets to ask: What do you think of the referendum?

Image copyright Richard Irvine-Brown

Bridge Mellor tweets to ask: If Crimea votes to join Russia, how soon will it happen? How many of the population speak Russian in Sebastopol?

Gleb replies: They'll join Russia the next day. All decisions are taken without us. And: 99%. The other 1% are dumb.

Gleb responds: All the lists are in Kiev. It's the dream of a blind horse.

22:17 Shouting match begins

Gleb: Relax and wait for the bombing to start, just like us.

Lyosha: What bombing? Come on.

Gleb: Lyosha, ever the optimist.

Lyosha: Russia won't shoot first.

Gleb: But it would really like to.

Lyosha: About 10,000 guns have been seized in the Ukraine.

Gleb: That's Moscow propaganda.

Lyosha: Irregular groups do have guns in the Ukraine now.

Lyosha: That's just not true.

Gleb: We can't say.

Lyosha: It's a bit early for that.

22:41 Families and protesters

Naomi Martin tweets to ask: Are your relatives living in Crimea, are you worried for [their] safety? Any family arguments?

Mel Huang tweets to ask Gleb and Lyosha what they think about the 50,000 protesters in Moscow today.

Image copyright Richard Irvine-Brown

22:40 Hopes of independence?

With Marmalade the cat still in attendance and Whiter Shade Of Pale now playing, Gleb and Lyosha consider independence for the region.

Hugh Barton-Smith tweets that increasingly "fewer people reckon the EU has legs".

Lyosha replies: Quite possible. The Ukraine should be an independent state. It has all the assets it needs.

Gleb: I know a perfectly independent state. It's called North Korea.

Bridget Mellor tweets to ask: What is best for Crimea? What would Lyosha and Gleb dream of happening?

Lyosha: Autonomy within the Ukraine.

Gleb: I agree completely. Won't happen.

23:21 An inevitability?

The Book Mistress tweets to ask if the vote in Crimea could have happened last year.

Gleb: Not a year ago. Not even today. Everything has been decided without us. I'm ashamed. I'm a fool...

Bridget Mellor responds: Many many things have changed since then including Russia Goodnight good luck

23:48 Goodbyes

Lyosha: Thanks, everyone. Hoping common sense will prevail

Gleb: Ukraine is rising to the height of the bottom of London

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