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Ukrainian-Born Federal Judge Speaks Out On Crisis In Crimea

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Judge Bohdan Futey

President Barack Obama is leveling sanctions on 11 Russian officials said to be at the center of that country's military incursion in Crimea, and one local advocate for Ukraine is speaking out.

Bohdan Futey, a federal judge with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, emigrated from Ukraine to the U.S. in the 1950s when he was just 5 years old. His parents opposed the country's communist rulers and feared for their lives when they fled the country.

“My parents escaped communism during the war in 1944. They came without my grandfather. He didn't really know what was happening and was shot and killed right in my front yard," Futey says. "So my family then escaped to Germany where we lived in a displaced persons camp and then we went to Argentina where I lived for ten years."

Futey, who was nominated to the court by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, says today's announcement by Obama is reinforced by his decision to send Vice President Joe Biden overseas to reassure allies in the region.

"Sending the vice president to the Baltic countries for consultation is reassuring and a demonstration of U.S. commitment to the area, and that's extremely, extremely important," he says.

Futey claims Russia's actions, especially this weekend's attempt to annex the autonomous region of Crimea, are driven by President Vladimir Putin, who he says favors a return to communism.

"He said that the end of the Soviet Union was the biggest mistake of the 20th century and he wants to revive the new Soviet Union as an empire," says Futey, who observed parliamentary elections in his homeland in 1994 and 1998.

The U.S. Government is calling this past weekend’s referendum vote allowing Russia to absorb Crimea illegal. Futey agrees and explains why.

“The referendum was illegal and unconstitutional, but also according to the constitution of the autonomous region of Crimea it is unconstitutional because the constitution of Crimea says that any referendum will be conducted in accordance with the constitution of Ukraine.

The White House warns more sanctions could follow if Putin formally annexes Crimea later this week.

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