MOSCOW, March 18 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin has approved a draft treaty to make Crimea part of Russia, the Kremlin said on Tuesday, confirming that Russia plans to make the southern Ukrainian region part of Russia. It said he would sign the treaty with Crimea’s leader.
Putin signed an order on Monday “to approve the draft treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Crimea on adopting the Republic of Crimea into the Russian Federation”.
The order was part of a series of steps to bring Crimea into Russia after voters there approved the move in a weekend referendum that Ukraine and the West have called denounced by Ukraine and the West as illegal.
Putin: “When Crimea wound up in another state, Russians thought they’d not just been stolen, but robbed”
— max seddon (@maxseddon) March 18, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin is addressing Russia’s parliament. Here is a live feed of it on Russia Today:
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk gave a televised address Tuesday in Russian, seeking to assure speakers of the language.
“Association with NATO is not on the agenda,” he said. “Despite the armed aggression of Russia against Ukraine, I will do everything possible not only to keep the peace but also to build a genuine partnership with Russia and good neighbor relations.”
Many Ukrainians speak Russian, and it is predominant in the South and East of the country.
A few people walk through a nearly empty Lenin Square in central Simferopol on March 17, 2014. Crimea declared independence today and applied to join Russia while the Kremlin braced for sanctions after the flashpoint peninsula voted to leave Ukraine in a ballot that has fanned the worst East-West tensions since the Cold War. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Philipp Missfelder, foreign policy spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour his country could function if Russia were to cut off its gas supplies to the European economic dynamo.
“If the Russians would stop the gas supply for us, or we would raise sanctions on the oil and gas sector, we will be able to have in the interconnected and linked European energy market – of course with higher prices – the energy supply for Germany,” Missfelder said.
Read the entire report here.
— Ryan Craggs
Ukraine will sign a deal for closer political association with the European Union on Friday, according to a statement from E.U. foreign ministers.
The political provisions are part of an E.U. association agreement rejected by former President Viktor Yanukovych in November, sparking months of protests that preceded his downfall.
Reuters reports the economic and trade cooperation portion of the association agreement will be addressed after Ukraine’s presidential elections, scheduled for May 25.
Find the full statement here.
— Charlotte Alfred
The Daily Beast reports Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to fire back at the United States with sanctions targeting U.S. officials. The Russian sanctions come in response to U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement Monday the U.S. was imposing sanctions on high-level Russian officials and fugitive Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. More from The Daily Beast:
Putin is expected to release his retaliation list as early as Tuesday and while the final list is still being crafted, it will include top Obama administration officials and high profile U.S. senators, in an effort to roughly mirror the U.S. sanctions against Russian officials and lawmakers, according to diplomatic sources. At the top of the list in Congress is Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, who recently co-authored a resolution criticizing Russia’s invasion of Crimea.
Read the full text here.
— Ryan Craggs
According to The New Republic’s Julia Ioffe, Putin’s declaration of Crimea as an independent state doesn’t mean any one thing, for now.
The way Ioffe sees it, Crimea faces two options: A replay of the 2008 land dispute over Abkhazia between Russia and Georgia, or annexation by Russia. But, as Ioffe writes:
What we know now is that we know nothing now. Putin, as always, is moving slowly, but deliberately, carefully leaving his options open while testing the waters of international response. He may decide to keep Crimea as a vassal state stuck in the limbo of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, or he may move to make it another republic inside the Russian Federation.
Read the full article on The New Republic.
— Ryan Craggs
The White House said on Monday the United States was reviewing Ukrainian requests for military aid but insisted that Washington for now was limiting its assistance to economic support as it seeks a diplomatic path with Russia.”We’re reviewing requests by the Ukrainian government and military,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. “Our focus is on steps that Russia can take to de-escalate.”
— Charlotte Alfred
Reuters reports Ukraine has begun digging a defensive trench in the region of Donetsk, near the country’s border with Russia.
The trench includes concrete barriers, according to governor Sergei Taruta, and is intended to restore order in the aftermath of Russia’s takeover in Crimea. Like all regional leaders, Taruta was appointed by Ukraine’s central government.
“Our border is not a castle. But it is equipped so that vehicles cannot cross it in either direction,” Taruta said. “This is not based on one or another scenario, but rather intended to maintain a solid border.”
Read the full report here.
— Ryan Craggs
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree making Crimea a “sovereign and independent” state Monday. It was not immediately clear whether the 37-word decree, which takes effect immediately, was a precursor to annexation or a shift in strategy to make Crimea an independent country.
A couple hold a Russian flag outside the Crimean parliament building in central Simferopol on March 17, 2014. (DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images)
Click here for more photos of celebrations in Crimea.
Vadislav Surkov, a top adviser and spinmeister to Vladimir Putin known as a “grey cardinal” inside the Kremlin, brushed off U.S. sanctions with particular aplomb.
“I see the decision by the administration in Washington as an acknowledgment of my service to Russia. It’s a big honor for me. I don’t have accounts abroad,” he told the Moskovsky Komsomolets. “The only things that interest me in the U.S. are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock. I don’t need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney did not rule out direct U.S. sanctions against Russia’s Putin during a press conference on Monday.
“The authority exists to apply sanctions to a variety of individuals and entities,” Carney told reporters, according to Reuters. “We’re not going to rule out individuals or rule out actions.”
Putin is currently not on the list of individuals targeted by U.S. sanctions, nor is Russia foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.
— Eline Gordts
Cossack men install a Russian flag and a Crimean flag on the roof of the City Hall building on March 17, 2014 in Bakhchysarai, Ukraine. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)