Putin approves Crimea’s annexation to Russia in defiance of Western sanctions
President Vladimir Putin approved a draft treaty between Crimea and Moscow on the breakaway region’s “reunification with Russia” Tuesday, March 18. He formally notified the Russian parliament of Crimea's application to join Russia as a new federal subject with the status of a republic. The city of Sevastopol, which hosts a major Russian naval base, would have a special status within the republic.
Putin acted after the US and EU imposed sanctions on Russian and Crimean officials as a warning to Moscow not to go through with this step.
Both the US and European Union held back Monday, March 17, from harshly punishing Russia for going through with the Crimean referendum, which overwhelmingly approved union with Russia. The US imposed travel bans and froze the assets of seven top Russians and three Ukrainians, while the European foreign ministers in Brussels listed 21 mostly unnamed targets for those same sanctions for a period of six months.
President Barack Obama warned Moscow not to go any further but rather to engage in dialogue for resolving the Ukraine crisis diplomatically.
The Russian officials targeted for US sanctions were close to President Vladimir Putin:
Speaker of the upper house of parliament Valentina Matviyenko;
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin;
Putin’s personal advisers Vladislav Surkov and Sergey Glazyev;
Chairman of the upper house foreign affairs committee Leonid Slutzky;
Chairman of the Federation Council’s legislation committee Andrey Klishas;
Chair of the parliamentary committee for women and children Yelena Mizulina, as well as
Ex-Ukraine prime minister Viktor Yanukovych.
The Crimean leaders on the list are regional prime minister Sergei Aksenov and parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantinov.
The EU foreign ministers meeting in emergency session in Brussels pared their original list of 121 names for sanctions to 21, whose names they refused to divulge except for the commander of Russia’s Black Fleet, Alexander Vitko. Ten are members of the Russian parliament, three are military commanders and eight Crimean officials. They were barred entry to European countries and their assets frozen for six months. Some of the targets no doubt withdrew their assets from European financial centers in good time.
The foreign ministers were careful to exclude such powerful Russian economic figures as Gazprom head Alexei Miller and Rosneft head Igor Sechin from the list of sanctions. Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz indicated earlier that the Europeans would not make the mistake of picking on Russian “business bosses.”
The White House announced that the sanctions could be broadened if Russia moves to incorporate Crimea into its territory. Russian officials earlier promised a proportional response against EU and US officials if sanctions were forthcoming
Tuesday, after 96.7 percent of eligible voters in Crimea voted to split from Ukraine and unite with Russia, Putin is to deliver a speech to the Dumas on the Ukraine crisis ahead of the vote on March 21 to approve the annexation of Crimea to the Russian federation. A formal application was submitted by Crimea Monday. Meanwhile the Russian ruble was declared the region’s second official currency.