Crimeans Keep Saying No to Ukraine

Exclusive: In a rare moment of honesty, a Western news outlet, Forbes, admits that the people of Crimea expressed their legitimate will in last year’s referendum when they voted to abandon Ukraine and rejoin Russia, an inconvenient truth for the U.S. State Department and press corps, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

A central piece of the West’s false narrative on the Ukraine crisis has been that Russian President Vladimir Putin “invaded” Crimea and then staged a “sham” referendum purporting to show 96 percent support for leaving Ukraine and rejoining Russia. More recently, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland claimed that Putin has subjected Crimea to a “reign of terror.”

Both elements have been part of the “group think” that dominates U.S. political and media circles, but this propagandistic storyline simply isn’t true, especially the part about the Crimeans being subjugated by Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses a crowd on May 9, 2014, celebrating the 69th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Crimean port city of  Sevastopol from the Nazis. (Russian government photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses a crowd on May 9, 2014, celebrating the 69th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Crimean port city of Sevastopol from the Nazis. (Russian government photo)

Consistently, over the past year, polls conducted by major Western firms have revealed that the people of Crimea by overwhelming numbers prefer being part of Russia over Ukraine, an embarrassing reality that Forbes business magazine has now acknowledged.

An article by Kenneth Rapoza, a Forbes specialist on developing markets, cited these polls as showing that the Crimeans do not want the United States and the European Union to force them back into an unhappy marriage with Ukraine. “The Crimeans are happy right where they are” with Russia, Rapoza wrote.

“One year after the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula in the Black Sea, poll after poll shows that the locals there, be they Ukrainians, ethnic Russians or Tartars are all in agreement: life with Russia is better than life with Ukraine,” he wrote, adding that “the bulk of humanity living on the Black Sea peninsula believe the referendum to secede from Ukraine was legit.”

Rapoza noted that a June 2014 Gallup poll, which was sponsored by the U.S. government’s Broadcasting Board of Governors, found that 82.8 percent of Crimeans said the March 16 referendum on secession reflected the views of the Crimean people. In the poll, when asked if joining Russia would improve their lives, 73.9 percent said yes and only 5.5 percent said no.

A February 2015 poll by German polling firm GfK found similar results. When Crimeans were asked “do you endorse Russia’s annexation of Crimea,” 93 percent gave a positive response, with 82 percent saying, “yes, definitely.” Only 2 percent said no, with the remainder unsure or not answering.

In other words, the West’s insistence that Russia must return Crimea to Ukraine would mean violating the age-old U.S. principle of a people’s right of self-determination. It would force the largely ethnic Russian population of Crimea to submit to a Ukrainian government that many Crimeans view as illegitimate, the result of a violent U.S.-backed coup on Feb. 22, 2014, that ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych.

The coup touched off a brutal civil war in which the right-wing regime in Kiev dispatched neo-Nazi and other extremist militias to spearhead a fierce “anti-terrorism operation” against resistance from the ethnic Russian population in the east, which like Crimea had supported Yanukovych. More than 6,000 Ukrainians, most of them ethnic Russians, have been killed in the fighting.

Despite this reality, the mainstream U.S. news media has misreported the crisis and distorted the facts to conform to U.S. State Department propaganda. Thus, many Americans believe the false narrative about Russian troops crushing the popular will of the Crimean people, much as the U.S. public was misled about the Iraq situation in 2002-03 by many of the same news outlets.

Or, as Forbes’ Rapoza put it: “At some point, the West will have to recognize Crimea’s right to self rule. Unless we are all to believe that the locals polled by Gallup and GfK were done so with FSB bogey men standing by with guns in their hands.” The FSB is a Russian intelligence agency.

The GfK survey also found that Crimeans considered the Ukrainian media, which has been wildly anti-Russian, unreliable. Only 1 percent said the Ukrainian media “provides entirely truthful information” and only 4 percent said it was “more often truthful than deceitful.”

So, the people at the frontline of this conflict, where Assistant Secretary Nuland, detected a “reign of terror,” say they are not only satisfied with being restored to Russia, which controlled Crimea since the 1700s, but don’t trust the distorted version of events that they see on Ukrainian TV.

Practical Reasons

Some of the reasons for the Crimean attitudes are simply pragmatic. Russian pensions were three times larger than what the Ukrainian government paid and now the Ukrainian pensions are being slashed further in compliance with austerity demands from the International Monetary Fund.

This month, Nuland boasted about those pension cuts in praising the Kiev regime’s steps toward becoming a “free-market state.” She also hailed “reforms” that will force Ukrainians to work harder and into old age and that slashed gas subsidies which helped the poor pay their heating bills.

Last year, the New York Times and other U.S. news outlets also tossed around the word “invasion” quite promiscuously in discussing Crimea. But you may recall that you saw no images of Russian tanks crashing into the Crimean peninsula or an amphibious landing or paratroops descending from the skies. The reason was simple: Russian troops were already in Crimea.

The Russians had a lease agreement with Ukraine permitting up to 25,000 military personnel in Crimea to protect the Russian naval base at Sevastopol. About 16,000 Russian troops were on the ground when the Feb. 22, 2014 putsch occurred in Kiev and after a crisis meeting at the Kremlin, they were dispatched to prevent the coup regime from imposing its control on Crimea’s people.

That Russian intervention set the stage for the March 16 referendum in which the voters of Crimea turned out in large numbers and voted overwhelmingly for secession from Ukraine and reintegration with Russia, a move that the Russian parliament and President Putin then approved.

Yet, as another part of its false reporting, the New York Times claimed that Putin denied that Russian troops had operated inside Crimea when, in fact, he was quite open about it. For instance, on March 4, 2014, almost two weeks before the referendum, Putin discussed at a Moscow press conference the role of Russian troops in preventing the violence from spreading from Kiev to Crimea. Putin said:

“You should note that, thank God, not a single gunshot has been fired there. Thus the tension in Crimea that was linked to the possibility of using our Armed Forces simply died down and there was no need to use them. The only thing we had to do, and we did it, was to enhance the defense of our military facilities because they were constantly receiving threats and we were aware of the armed nationalists moving in. We did this, it was the right thing to do and very timely.”

Two days after the referendum, which recorded the 96 percent vote in favor of seceding from Ukraine and rejoining Russia, Putin returned to the issue of Russian involvement in Crimea. In a formal speech to the Russian Federation, Putin justified Crimea’s desire to escape the grasp of the coup regime in Kiev, saying:

“Those who opposed the [Feb. 22] coup were immediately threatened with repression. Naturally, the first in line here was Crimea, the Russian-speaking Crimea. In view of this, the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol turned to Russia for help in defending their rights and lives, in preventing the events that were unfolding and are still underway in Kiev, Donetsk, Kharkov and other Ukrainian cities.

“Naturally, we could not leave this plea unheeded; we could not abandon Crimea and its residents in distress. This would have been betrayal on our part.”

But to make it appear that Putin was denying a military intervention, the Times and other U.S. news outlets truncated Putin’s statement when he said, “Russia’s Armed Forces never entered Crimea.” The Western press stopped there, ignoring what he said next: “they were there already in line with an international agreement.”

Putin’s point was that Russian troops based in Crimea took actions that diffused a possibly violent situation and gave the people of Crimea a chance to express their wishes through the ballot. But that version of events didn’t fit with the desired narrative pushed by the U.S. State Department and the New York Times. So the problem was solved by misrepresenting what Putin said.

But the larger issue now is whether the Obama administration and the European Union will insist on forcing the Crimean people against their will to rejoin Ukraine, a country that is rapidly sliding into the status of a failed state and a remarkably cruel one at that.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

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21 comments for “Crimeans Keep Saying No to Ukraine

  1. Pat
    March 23, 2015 at 1:14 am

    The GfK survey also found that Crimeans considered the Ukrainian media, which has been wildly anti-Russian, unreliable.

    So much for the Kiev government’s spending their hard-earned IMF money on the new “Ministry of Information Policy.” Outraged journalists protested, calling it the “Ministry of Truth,” after Orwell’s 1984. The new truth czar responded that it was necessary to counter “Russian information aggression.”

    Forbes gets credit for publishing Rapoza’s work. This isn’t the first time they’ve gone out on a limb with him. Three years ago, they ran his article on financial astrology, which is used by many Wall Street traders, although for obvious reasons, they won’t admit it publicly. His article was well-researched and airtight. There were the predictable snarky comments of the kind you’d expect on articles on this site that portray Putin as anything other than the antichrist. And they looked just as foolish, as they had no argument other than, “We all know astrology is superstitious BS.”

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2012/02/20/can-planets-affect-your-portfolio/

    • OlegB
      March 28, 2015 at 10:31 pm

      It looks like most comments here are left by people watching RT 24/7. Nobody cares that the “referendum” was absolutely illegal, it was held under control of the Russian invaders, thousands of people were forced to take Russian citizenship against their will. Do you really believe that “tractor drivers and miners” (as Putin called them) can fight against regular Ukrainian army for more than a year without any military supplies? How can’t you see that this is Russian army occupied Ukrainian territory? Even the terrorist Girkin who was in charge of the invasion on its early stage admitted that it would not be possible without Russian man force and supplies.

      • Oleg
        March 29, 2015 at 12:17 pm

        Looks like this is your first visit to this site. You’re probably not aware that the readers here appreciate factual information rather than propagandistic rants you are more familiar with.

        You seem upset that Russian volunteers were in Junta’s way of quietly exterminating the Untermenschen (“tractor drivers and miners” ) from the East. Does it also upset you that about half a million of Ukranians fled the Kiev liberators to “hostile” Russia?

  2. Joe Tedesky
    March 23, 2015 at 1:19 am

    My hat is off to Robert Parry’s great reporting. I was thrilled today when a talk radio host referenced one of Mr Parry’s recent articles. KDKA 1020am radio host Chris Moore sighted as one his his references Robert Parry’s article “A Neocon Admits the Plan to Bomb Iran”. Parry in this article reported on Joshua Muravchik’s recent comments concerning how the Neocon’s do intent to bomb Iran.

    I know Robert Parry is a well known journalist, but I get an extra thrill whenever someone like Parry gets mentioned outside of the Internet. After all it is well known how KDKA radio was America’s first radio station to report presidential election results. I believe that was back in 1920. Never the less it was a wonderful thing to hear as Chris Moore broadcasted basically what Robert Parry had written here on Consortiumnews.

    My hope for Crimea is that Europe may stop this run away train, namely the USofA. Nuland and Breedlove are now arming every nation which boarders Russia. Yet, the only news is how Russia is holding military exercises. Nothing about NATO nations doing whatever. This is propaganda at work, and this is what Robert Parry is constantly warning us about. If only we Americans could rid our government of the Neocon’s, and then dial our dialog down a few notches. Let’s hope more people hear what Parry has to report. God, know America needs responsible reported news.

  3. Joe L.
    March 23, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    I also found a Pew Research Center poll from May 8, 2014 which also disproves Victoria Nuland’s claim that the people of Crimea are being “terrorized” by Russia.

    Pew Research Center: “Despite Concerns about Governance, Ukrainians Want to Remain One Country” (May 8, 2014):

    “Crimean residents are almost universally positive toward Russia. At least nine-in-ten have confidence in Putin (93%) and say Russia is playing a positive role in Crimea (92%). Confidence in Obama is almost negligible at 4%, and just 2% think the U.S. is having a good influence on the way things are going on the Crimean peninsula.

    International attention has focused on Crimea in large part due to the March 16th referendum on seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia. According to the reported results, most of the Crimean residents who participated voted for secession. However, the legitimacy of the referendum has been hotly disputed, and few in the international community have accepted the outcome.

    For their part, Crimeans seem content with their annexation by Russia. Overwhelming majorities say the March 16th referendum was free and fair (91%) and that the government in Kyiv ought to recognize the results of the vote (88%).”

    http://www.pewglobal.org/2014/05/08/despite-concerns-about-governance-ukrainians-want-to-remain-one-country/

    • Joe Tedesky
      March 23, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      Joe L, if I may add to your comment. Compare US invaded countries to Crimea, and a country about to be invaded may wish Russia were the invader. Just look at Afghanistan, and Iraq. Crimea is Disney World next door to the city dump if you were to compare USA invaded territory’s. On second thought, the city dump is paradise over what our country’s invasions have wrought.

      • Joe L.
        March 23, 2015 at 3:06 pm

        Oh, I have checked into US invasions and coups. By the way, I am Canadian but I also know that my government largely supports US actions in the world, a satellite of the US if you will. I think the illusion is that the US government cares about “democracy” and “freedom” for the world – when the very opposite is apparent if anyone looks at the history – case in point Latin America. The US has overthrown a lot of democracies around the world and installed dictators which were friendly to US interests, especially in Latin America (check into John Pilger’s documentary “War on Democracy” or “Stealing a Nation”). For me, I don’t like the fact that Russia annexed Crimea but I understand why they did it and I believe it was “defensive” with NATO moving right up to the Russian border meanwhile NATO promised that it would not move eastward of Germany. Hell, if this coup did not occur in Kyiv and the February 21st agreement had been respected then the Ukrainian people would have democratically voted out Yanukovych, Crimea would still be a part of Ukraine, and there would not have been any unrest in Eastern Ukraine. Now we will have to see how the Ukrainians react as the IMF helps gut the countries resources, privatizes their industry, and reduces their wages all with the help of Ukraine’s new AMERICAN Finance Minister, who basically used to work for USAID in Ukraine.

  4. Gregory Kruse
    March 23, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    I also am encouraged when I see Mr. Parry’s work in other places such as therealnews.com and when he speaks in public. I often mention his work in my comments on other sites. Conversely, I saw a video by a Russia expert by the name of Paul Robinson that corroborates Parry’s assessments on Ukraine. Here is the link: http://www.truthdig.com/avbooth/item/vladimir_putin_is_not_responsible_for_the_ukrainian_civil_war_20150321

    • Joe L.
      March 23, 2015 at 12:38 pm

      I do the same, I quite often quote Mr. Parry’s article’s on other sites – such as YouTube. Especially about Ukraine, and even Syria, the reporting in the MSM has been atrocious. So I have looked to people like Robert Parry, Seymour Hersh, Chris Hedges, John Pilger and a number of award winning journalists to get a more truthful view of what is happening in the world and debunking US State Department lies.

  5. Oleg
    March 23, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    Just to comment on the Crimean Tatar situation which is often twisted in the media:
    Under the Ukrainian rule, the situation was much worse for the Crimean Tatars. They had essentially no rights and were considered a prototype for separatists. Now the Crimean Tatar language is an *official* language of Crimea along with Russian and Ukranian (unlike ever before). The vice-speaker of the Crimean Parlament is a Crimean Tatar (Remzi Ilysaov). Finally, Crimea is the wealthiest and safest part of what was known as Ukraine.

  6. F. G. Sanford
    March 23, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    The latest evolution in the ongoing criminal misrepresentation of “Russian aggression” is a big military “Dog and Pony Show” circus event to be staged by NATO. Bombastic Ben Hodges and his boss, Tony Soprano look-a-like Phil Breedlove, have come up with a gala event to showcase American resolve and to “assure” our Eastern European allies. The scenario is called , “Operation Dragoon Ride”, and it will involve armored convoys including Stryker vehicles. Under normal circumstances, these convoys would be loaded onto flatbed rail cars and transported quietly, efficiently, and quickly to staging areas near the ‘Area of Operations’. But the goal is to “assure” our allies. So, they have decided to move these slow, noisy and disruptive vehicles on public roads through towns and villages on a 1,200 mile trek. This will give our Soldiers a chance to “interact” with those communities in a spirit of camaraderie and good will. Since many of them are rural, and they herd their cows and sheep on village thoroughfares daily, there should be plenty of interesting “interactions”. In keeping with their debilitating fear and desperate need for “assurance” against Putin’s “aggression”, many of these communities have abandoned celebrations commemorating WWII Allied Victory. Instead, they have valiantly staged Nazi rallies to demonstrate how much they need “assurance”. No, dear reader, we’re not talking about “Neo” Nazis. These parades are being led by actual veterans of Hitler’s Waffen SS Units. Estonia was the world’s 2nd fascist dictatorship, so they’re still catching up. In the Czech Republic, this festive event is being welcomed with massive protests. Apparently, having tanks rolling through their city streets and blocking traffic does not make them feel “assured”. Rather, it makes them feel “Boston Strong”, and reminds them they will be in the direct line of fire for any counteroffensive launched against a NATO invasion. I wonder if the ‘mission briefing’ will include EO (Equal Opportunity) and CO2 (Consideration of Others) “sensitivity training” in keeping with the usual Army policy of ‘Zero Tolerance’ for racist and fascist organizations. Clearly, there could be some ‘culture clash’ during the fun and frolic inspired by all this cheery “interaction”. But I’m sure those Nazis are looking forward to an opportunity to broaden their horizons and embrace cultural diversity. Surely, the American media will easily spin any protest gatherings into cheering crowds welcoming their American liberators. After all, as “Yats” put it, “We all remember the Russian invasion of Germany and Ukraine”.

    • Loodt Pretorius
      March 23, 2015 at 1:26 pm

      It is a pity that the American Generals are not as well read as one would expect.

      Field Marshall Montgomery commented on tank warfare in his book Memoirs. He noted that the Cavalry who took over most of the senior positions in the tank corps had very little mechanical appreciation and drove their tanks to destruction by redeploying them willy-nilly. In contrast, his adversary, Rommel, had trank transporters for just about every tank under his command.

      Monty had to fight Churchill who just wanted supply tanks, as the tank transporters had no guns to shoot at the Germans, to get his armoured division fully equipped. The idea is to move the tank as close to the battle field as possible before you deploy it for battle.

      Oh, well, the engineering corps is going to be very busy repair and replacing tracks. Do you think that will be reported?

    • F. Lambert
      March 23, 2015 at 10:58 pm

      F. G. Sanford, Excellent comment! They’ve already started the rewrites of World War Two history, basically excluding the Soviet Red Army who not only lost the most people, but inflicted 80-88 % of war casualties suffered by the German Army and troops from the “international community” allied with the Nazi government.

      WW3 will make the first two world wars seem like child’s play by comparison.

  7. Boris M Garsky
    March 23, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    It is time to admit the obvious, the decline of western civilization, if it can be called so, is in motion. Perhaps it is best for mankind. We have degraded ourselves to a primordial stage that is unknown, even to animals. We kill and war for profits, not for survival. The neocons, who hardly care about the populace or country have managed in a short period of our history to turn the world opinion against us, and justifiably so; if you don’t agree with us, or if you don’t turn over your national treasure to us; we bomb you! Somewhere, somehow, under Reagan, the USA adopted Israels mentality; everyone is the enemy. However, the USA doesn’t have a big brother to protect it from its delusions. It is obvious that democracy has failed and is at best an illusion. Crimea is not Ukraine and will never be so. Democracy had been practiced in Crimea, but condemned by the west; the people have no rights to decide! That is solely the right of corporations and investors. Great article.

    • jaycee
      March 23, 2015 at 6:43 pm

      I largely agree with your sentiments but would like to suggest dispensing with the pronouns. Does current foreign or economic policy really represent the interests or have the endorsement of “we“ or “us“? I hardly think so – that is why the propaganda needs to be so crude and overwhelming. I am not sure “we“ live in the democracies we think “we“ do any longer.

      Obama came to the presidency after promising hope and change, and he received a mandate for change… but nothing changed. This also happened in the early 90s when voters kicked out parties identified with neo-liberal economic policies across certainly the Anglo countries (goodbye Reagan/Bush, Thatcher, Mulroney, etc), but nothing changed and the “free-market“ avalanche only got bigger via corporate friendly trade agreements.

    • F. Lambert
      March 23, 2015 at 10:45 pm

      You’re right on the mark, Mr. Garsky! The sad thing to see are Europeans goose-stepping to American propaganda and ready to take part in WW3. Americans, for the most part, prefer to stay uninformed about important issues and are easily conned into believing what the powers that be want them to believe and are easily manipulated. Unfortunately, the same formula seems to be successful in Europe.

  8. Brendan
    March 23, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    As if the people of Crimea didn’t already have enough reasons to not want to be ruled from Kiev, the billionaire oligarch and right wing militia financier Ihor Kolomoisky showed last week who’s boss in Ukraine:

    “Ukrainian oligarch under fire after night raid on state oil firm”

    “Two parliamentary deputies accused Kolomoisky of sending the masked men into the offices of UkrTransNafta late on Thursday night after it was announced that its chairman, an ally of the 52-year-old oligarch, had been sacked.

    Kolomoisky, governor of the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region and one of Ukraine’s richest men with a net worth of about $3 billion according to Forbes, later came out of the building and clashed angrily with journalists.

    “I came to free the building from Russian saboteurs,” he could be heard saying on a YouTube video clip in which he swore several times at reporters.”

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/20/us-ukraine-crisis-kolomoisky-idUSKBN0MG2A320150320

    Kolomoisky showing journalists what a nice guy he is:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1gh3it6JvQ

  9. Don Clarke
    March 24, 2015 at 12:10 am

    Whatever the secret agenda of American foreign policy or Russian ambitions are, there’s nothing particularly complicated that’s occurring in Ukraine to most Ukrainians. It’s a lot like here with psychotic wealthy oligarchs interfering in everything for personal profit. A history of graft makes it worse, which they never got away from.
    My wife is an eastern Ukrainian, originally born in the Russian far east, and her kids are Ukrainian citizens. One is still living there and traveling back and forth to Russia, Europe and America doing business. They and their friends, all highly educated, never liked Ukrainian politicians which always end up wealthy (like in America) and crooked. To them this started with the people wanting change and a government that serves the people not its self, just like we want here (in America that’s getting harder to find too). But they have universal medical care we’ll never be allowed to get!
    They do NOT like Putin’s Russia and think the nationality bit from either side is nonsense. Actually few there are supporting this nonsense and DO want to be part of Europe. Russia has nothing to offer, even to their own people under Putin.
    In the Crimea, Ukrainians must now become Russian citizens or they will lose their property. If you think they like Putin’s Russia, your fooled.
    Eastern Ukrainians didn’t much like having to switch to the Ukrainian language because it’s technically and scientifically not an advanced language as is Russian, but that’s not worth a revolution.
    None of those that they know, are aware of the nazis which the neocons manipulated as you have written about. There are always nut cases around, after all America has more than its share that have reached high positions!
    They had hoped America would help them. But America can’t even help itself with so many psychotics in charge now days. It’s no longer the caring, adult and liberal nation, if it ever was. Our Ukrainian family and friends don’t understand that yet. Ukraine is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
    But then we all are, with the sixth extinction looming near that’ll make all this as nothing.

    • jrosso@startmail.com
      March 24, 2015 at 5:59 am

      psychotic? much too weak. Its pyschopathic — no regard for humanity anywhere, from US’s Dropshot program to annihilate the Soviet Union in 1957, to today’s Cuban Missile crisis in reverse — and not a care in the US. Maybe all are psychopaths?
      JJR

  10. Oleg
    March 24, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    What Ukranians think depends strongly on the region. The example you give is certainly not representative of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. In those regions, Western aspirations of the other Ukranians are associated with everyday bombing. Whatever they thought before the conflict, now they believe that the US is a great evil that supports Kiev’s policy of their extermination. On the other hand, Russia and Putin send in humanitarian aid, bring gas and electricity to at least some of the regions.

    And of course, the are numerous examples of the neocons supporting nationalism and Nazis in Ukraine (http://themadjewess.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/mccainpic.jpg). That one family is not aware of it does not make it go away.

    • Oleg
      March 25, 2015 at 9:07 am

      Sorry, this meant to be a reply to Don Clarke’s statement just above.

Comments are closed.