Putin declares Crimea 'sovereign and independent'

Washington and the European Union retaliate with asset freezes and travel bans
Associated Press
Mar 17, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized Crimea as a "sovereign and independent country" Monday, just hours after the strategic Black Sea peninsula declared it had broken away from Ukraine.

The moves triggered the toughest Western sanctions against Russia since the Cold War — with Washington and the European Union retaliating with asset freezes and travel bans and U.S. President Barack Obama vowing to "increase the cost" if the Kremlin does not back down.

Ukraine's turmoil has become Europe's most severe security crisis in years and tensions have been high since Russian troops seized control of Crimea, which decided in a Sunday referendum to merge with Russia. Putin signed a decree recognizing Crimea's independence, and Russian troops were massed near the border with Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine's acting president raised tensions on the ground by calling for the activation of some 20,000 military reservists and volunteers across the country and for the mobilization of another 20,000 in the recently formed national guard.

In the Crimean capital of Simferopol, ethnic Russians applauded the Sunday referendum that overwhelmingly called for secession and for joining Russia. Masked men in body armor blocked access for most journalists to the parliament session that declared independence, but the city otherwise appeared to go about its business normally.

The U.S., EU and Ukraine's new government do not recognize the referendum held Sunday in Crimea, which was called hastily as Ukraine's political crisis deepened with the ouster of pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych following months of protests and sporadic bloodshed. In addition to calling the vote itself illegal, the Obama administration said there were "massive anomalies" in balloting that returned a 97 percent "yes" vote for joining Russia.

Obama warned that Russia could face more financial punishment.

"If Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose further sanctions," Obama said.

One of the top Russian officials hit by sanctions mocked Obama.

"Comrade Obama, what should those who have neither accounts nor property abroad do? Have you not thought about it?" Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted. "I think the decree of the President of the United States was written by some joker."

Moscow considers the vote legitimate and Putin was to address both houses of parliament Tuesday on the Crimean situation.

In Kiev, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov vowed that Ukraine will not give up Crimea.

"We are ready for negotiations, but we will never resign ourselves to the annexation of our land," a somber-faced Turchynov said in a televised address to the nation. "We will do everything in order to avoid war and the loss of human lives. We will be doing everything to solve the conflict through diplomatic means. But the military threat to our state is real."

The Crimean referendum could also encourage rising pro-Russian sentiment in Ukraine's east and lead to further divisions in this nation of 46 million.

A delegation of Crimean lawmakers was set to travel to Moscow on Monday for negotiations on how to proceed. Russian lawmakers have suggested that formally annexing Crimea is almost certain — with one saying it could happen within days.

"We came back home to Mother Russia. We came back home, Russia is our home," said Nikolay Drozdenko, a resident in Sevastopol, the key Crimean port where Russia leases a naval base from Ukraine.

The Crimean parliament declared that all Ukrainian state property on the peninsula will be nationalized and become the property of the Crimean Republic. It gave no further details. Lawmakers also asked the United Nations and other nations to recognize it and began work on setting up a central bank with $30 million in support from Russia.

The United States announced sanctions against seven Russian officials, including Rogozin, Putin's close ally Valentina Matvienko who is speaker of the upper house of parliament and Vladislav Surkov, one of Putin's top ideological aides. The Treasury Department also targeted Yanukovych, Crimean leader Sergei Aksyonov and two other top figures.

The EU's foreign ministers slapped travel bans and asset freezes against 21 officials from Russia and Ukraine following Crimea's referendum. The ministers did not immediately release the names and nationalities of those targeted by the sanctions.

"We need to show solidarity with Ukraine and therefore Russia leaves us no choice," Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told reporters in Brussels before the vote. "The 'Anschluss' of Crimea cannot rest without a response from the international community."

He was referring to Nazi Germany's forceful annexation of Austria.

But markets appeared to signal that the Western sanctions lacked punch — with bourses both in Russia and Europe rising sharply on relief that they won't hit trade of business ties.

"So far the sanctions seem fairly toothless and much less severe than had been expected last week," said Kathleen Brooks, research director at Forex.com. "From the market's perspective, the biggest risk was that the referendum would trigger tough sanctions against Russia that could lead to another Cold War."

Moscow, meanwhile, called on Ukraine to become a federal state as a way of resolving the polarization between Ukraine's western regions — which favor closer ties with the 28-nation EU — and its eastern areas, which have long ties to Russia.

In a statement Monday, Russia's Foreign Ministry urged Ukraine's parliament to call a constitutional assembly that could draft a new constitution to make the country federal, handing more power to its regions. It also said country should adopt a "neutral political and military status," a demand reflecting Moscow's concern about the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO and possibly integrating closer politically and economically with the EU.

Russia is also pushing for Russian to become one of Ukraine's state languages alongside Ukrainian.

In Kiev, Ukraine's new government dismissed Russia's proposal Monday as unacceptable, saying it "looks like an ultimatum."

The new government in Kiev was established after pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia last month after three months of protests culminated in deadly clashes.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya visited NATO headquarters in Brussels to request technical equipment to deal with the secession of Crimea and the Russian incursion there.

NATO said in a statement that the alliance was determined to boost its cooperation with Ukraine, including "increased ties with Ukraine's political and military leadership."

 

Comments

JMOP

So true Contago!

Darwin's choice

"America needs to take care of Americans"

Absolutely correct!!!!

When is obama going to get started on that?

Illegals aren't Americans, by the way....

rbenn

Obamas next move is too unfriend Putin on facebook! that will show em

JMOP

LMAO! Now that's funny rbenn!

He'll still follow him on twitter though.

rbenn

I did hear they share recipes on pintrest, that's when moochelle allows him to

Truth2u

BILL CLINTON along with Britain signed The Budapest Memorandum, which stated that if Russia crossed the boarders into the Ukraine the USA, Britain and NATO would send in troops.

So either Clinton is a liar, Obama is a liar and lacks leadership, or OUR WORD AS A NATION CAN'T BE TRUSTED.

NO Thanks to you liberals for destroying our nation by voting in a CLOWN. Hillary should be asked about this treaty, after she answers the charges for her Benghazi crimes.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/...

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/...

rbenn

Great post!! Lets see how the liberal asshats try to spin this one!!

Contango

"We seriously lack Leadership & Statesmanship"

"Obama is demonizing Putin and this makes no sense for it appears to be more of an excuse for the lack of a policy that leaves us in a very scary place for there is no solution of last resort that has a defined end game."

http://armstrongeconomics.com/20...

This author is an American who moved his business to Switzerland.

He accurately predicted that Putin would make a move on Ukraine AFTER the Winter Olympics.

BTW: Now that Pres. Obama has more than adequately shown his geo-political weakness, watch for China to make some moves.

The sh*t is seriously starting to unravel.

deertracker

How many of you are willing to go fight for Ukraine?

Contango

Re: "How many,"

Irrelevant nonsense, since the U.S. is a signatory to the "Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances"

So why is VP Biden in Poland?

Babo

Yes, but the "Treaty" is a Diplomatic Agreement and in all likelihood not enforceable under International Law. That said, one would think we have to honor our diplomatic agreements to have any credibility.

Contango

Re: "credibility."

Pres. Obama and "credibility"? There's an oxymoron. lol

Pres. Obama has given new life to a quote from Pres. Reagan:

"The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

Pres. Obama to Ukraine: If you like your country you can keep it. (Subject to change without notice.)

Babo

Yes, that was my point. We have no credibility as a nation and we will not honor this agreement. Historically we've always avoided Eastern Europe.

JudgeMeNot

0-bama is too chicken to fight a country that can fight back.

deertracker

You must be a war vet?

JudgeMeNot

I realized you are just a blathering idiot, looking for attention.

deertracker

COWARD!!!!!!!

Contango

To quote you 'turd:

"What are YOU going to do? NOTHING but hide behind your computer and criticize."

The Big Dog's back

"What are YOU going to do? NOTHING but hide behind your computer and criticize." I looked this up and kept coming across pooh's name.

Contango

Re: "What,"

So do you stand firm with Obie, piddles?

The Big Dog's back

Do you stand firm with Putin? You're probably sitting there with your KGB garb on.

Contango

Re: "KGB,"

Now your just spoutin' gibberish. You're the one that loves authoritarian socialism.

Do you need to go outside, lil' piddles?

deertracker

I still don't see any volunteers!

Contango

Re: "I still don't see any volunteers!"

Imbecilic off-topic fallacy.

So if Pres. Obama commits U.S. military forces, he should ride at the head of his troops?

deertracker

No, you should.

JudgeMeNot

The best 0-bama will do is make a speech or two, pretend to make threats, and then go golfing.

deertracker

What are YOU going to do? NOTHING but hide behind your computer and criticize.

Contango

Re: "hide behind your computer and criticize."

Just like you? lol

deertracker

No, just like YOU!

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