London (CNN) — Whatever U.S. and European leaders may say, it seems clear a majority of the residents of Crimea were only too happy to abandon Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. The referendum held there on Sunday was illegal according to Ukrainian constitutional law and took place under duress, following the large-scale incursion of “pro-Russian forces” — and voters did not have the choice to say “no” to severing ties with Kiev.
But these failings aside, it appears plain that most of Crimea’s population, with the exception of the Tatar minority and some ethnic Ukrainians, was content to return to what it regards as its ancestral home. The crucial turnout figures of up to 83% are suspect and may well be inflated. But independent reporting of enthusiastic celebrations suggested the overall outcome genuinely reflected popular wishes — and was crudely democratic.