On 16 March the new government of Crimea will hold a referendum which, it says, is to ratify the government's decision to split Crimea off from Ukraine and join it to the Russian Federation.
The "Left Opposition" group in Ukraine strongly attacks the Ukrainian chauvinism of the new government of Kiev. Yet it declares, rightly: "We are for the self-determination of Crimea only after the withdrawal of the Russian armies that are carrying out this flagrant intervention. We are for the self-determination of the people, and not of the mercenary elite who 'self-determine' so as to protect themselves from Crimeans with the muzzles of Russian automatic weapons".
The Crimean Tatars are the indigenous people of the area. They were deported, all 200,000 of them, by Stalin in 1944, and banned from resettling in Crimea until 1989. They are now only 13% of the population there.
Most Tatars will boycott the referendum in protest, and so probably will many Ukrainians living in Crimea. That makes a majority for joining Russia almost certain. The majority will be a product of Russia already having taken over Crimea militarily, rather than the Russia invasion being assistance or auxiliary to a revolt by the majority in Crimea.
On 24 February, a Russian military takeover, only two days after the fall and flight of Yanukovych in Ukraine, installed a government in Crimea based on a party which got a tiny minority in Crimea's last elections. The last opinion poll taken before then showed 41% for joining Russia, a smaller percentage than in 1991 when 56% voted for separation from Russia as part of Ukraine.
Crimea is distinct from the rest of Ukraine (and already has autonomy within Ukraine). It was transferred to Ukraine only in 1954, as an administrative measure within the old USSR. In principle it should be free to vote to secede from Ukraine or to join Russia. But the 16 March referendum is not a democratic choice. The question for the referendum was changed only on 6 March, to one between staying in Ukraine with greater autonomy or joining the Russian Federation.
Violence by Russian troops and Russian-organised militias makes counter-campaigning difficult. Already a number of Ukrainian military posts have been overpowered and taken over by Russian troops.
What happens after the referendum? On Tuesday 4 March, Russian president Vladimir Putin said he did "not foresee the possibility of the Crimean Peninsula becoming part of Russia". Since then he has hedged.
He may annex Crimea formally. Or he may play a longer game, continuing with Crimea's formal status unchanged, but with de facto Russian control over it, and with the referendum result to strengthen his hand in haggling with the new Ukrainian government and with the USA and the EU powers for a deal to secure Russian influence in the whole of Ukraine.
He has another option: to use his actions in Crimea to provoke confrontations between Ukrainian and Russian armed forces, which can then give him cover for sending Russian troops into other parts of Ukraine.
There have been (small) pro-Russian demonstrations in some cities in the east of Ukraine, and (plausible) reports that they were boosted by people bussed in from Russia.
Putin's position is strong, and not because pro-Russian sentiment in Ukraine is strong. There are large Russian minorities in the most easterly areas of Ukraine, enough to give Putin a base for meddling; but even many of the Russian minority do not want Russian control. 92% of the people of Ukraine, both east and west, voted to separate from Russia in 1991; the smallest majority in any of the districts of Ukraine other than Crimea was 84% in Donetsk.
After long years of Russian domination, Ukraine has many people whose first language is Russian. (Most people in Ukraine speak both Russian and Ukrainian: the two languages are similar). Russian-speaking Ukrainians, however, do not necessarily favour Russian rule over Ukraine, just as English-speaking Irish people do not necessarily favour English rule over Ireland. According to one participant, many of the anti-Yanukovych protesters in Kiev's Independence Square were Russian-speakers.
The USA is most reluctant to intervene militarily, and the EU powers will not do so without US involvement. The USA is keener on economic sanctions, but EU powers like Germany, which relies on Russian imports for one-third of its gas, are reluctant.
Some experts think that financial market sanctions against Russia could hit hard, but it looks unlikely that the USA and EU will agree on harsh sanctions. That also strengthens Putin's position.
We solidarise with the Ukrainian people's right to self-determination, and with the protests against Russia's invasion and intervention made by the left in Russia.
Correction: In last week's Solidarity we said that the new Kiev government had suppressed Russian language rights in Ukraine. In fact the parliament voted that way, but the new president vetoed the measure and it has not been re-raised. Russian language rights remain as they were under Yanukovych.