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

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

You got me. That's exactly what this is about. I am a petty, shallow person who can't get over that fact. All of my thoughts and reasons are based solely on the fact that a Democrat is in the White House.

I actually hold no passions, opinions, nor desire to pursue facts (or research history to learn its lessons) because of the blinding bias you pointed out. Everything I have ever posted is a part of the conspiracy against the Democrat in the White House with the only goal to remove him and replace him with a Republican because Republicans are the best party.

They are faultless, perfect. Everyone should be a Republican. Only old, white Republican men should be in the White House. The fact that isn't occurring me has me upset beyond measure.

grumpy

Re: "I actually hold no passions, opinions, nor desire to pursue facts"

WRONG! your passionate desire is your racism for the President that was overwhelmingly voted into office twice. While you secretly agree with all his policies and positions you just can't stand the FACT that he is a fine upstanding BLACK man who is doing God's work, and has fixed the economy and his signature healthcare plan is exceeding expectations of everyone. You are a racist as is everyone who doesn't back this wonderful man. You have no basis or right to disagree with Him.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Thank you for reminding me. I forgot how racist I actually am. Because I am white it is the only explanation at why I have a difference of opinion with our President. When we add that he is a Democrat I just can't seem to function properly. Race and party affiliation are my only foundation for thinking.

I never realized how narrow-minded I was until someone else told me who I am and expected me to not live another way. Life is easier when others dictate how I should think and live.

grumpy

Just remember you are an old, fat, white, racist, teapublican't. It is hard to keep it all straight... oops there is another adjective we both forgot, we are also homophobic and hate those who marry their own sex or get operations to change said gender. Dman, it is hard to keep it all in mind what some think everyone who doesn;'t march in lock step with them think of us. My bad.

Now I forgot religious zealot, I hope we are getting to the end of the list as it will be hard to remember all of the things we must be when we don't agree with policies of this president.

Don't forget we also hate clean air and water. and puppy dogs and kittens... women and children...

The Big Dog's back

That almost covers it pooh. I have a few more to throw in if you want.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

We hate the elderly, too. I think a commercial told me I want to push my wheelchair-bound grandmother literally off a cliff. As in I wish to murder old people that I both know and don't.

But all these reminders are good. I'll have to start kicking out all the racial minorities, non-Christians, gays (or those who don't care about sexual preference), girls, poor kids, abused kids, those who may be on the Autism spectrum, and...I dunno. I'll just change the rules as I go.

I bet that won't affect my business at all so I'll live my life fully expectant to maximize my potential as a human being surrounded by nothing but like-minded yuppie WASPs who think as I do, vote as I do, pray as I do and never challenge me to think or be a more understanding person.

grumpy

It is terrible to be close minded and hate those who don't think as piddles and his "party" think, after all they are open minded and accept all. (as long as you are just like them in thoughts and deeds and believe what their "party" tells them))

FSM

War mongers,

Here are your choices.
1) jump on a plane, grab a gun, go fight the Russians over this.
2) complain, while you do nothing
3) shut up

You are too scared to do #1(lets send other people and other's kids right?), so you do #2, while we wish you would do #3

Contango

Re: "while we wish you would do #3"

Who is "we"?

Define "we."

kURTje

FSM you are 100%.

Contango

A new development:

"Moldova's Trans-Dniester region pleads to join Russia"

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-eu...

Europe is far too dependent upon Russia for energy.

IMO, Pres. Obama needs to OK the Keystone XL pipeline, allow the production of LNG facilities and lift the restrictions on oil and nat gas exports.

These may be long-term solutions, but they will send an important message.

Peninsula Pundit

It sure will:
'We've sold our souls completely to Big Oil and will ruin our economy, environment and health to our overlords."
All the same, a message I will fight to my last breath.

kURTje

Tertiary. - - - - - - errrrrrrrrrrrr

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