Wasting no time and showing no sign that he’s concerned about Western objections or economic sanctions, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday started the process of annexing Crimea.
Putin “notified Russia’s parliament of his intention to make Crimea a part of the Russian Federation, defying the United States and Europe just hours after they imposed their first financial sanctions against Moscow since the crisis in Ukraine began,” The New York Times writes.
The Russian leader is due to address his parliament at 7 a.m. ET. According to the BBC, “Russian news website Gazeta.ru, quoting sources, says that after the speech, President Putin and the speaker of the Crimean parliament, Vladimir Konstantinov, are expected to sign an agreement on Crimea’s ‘entry into the Russian Federation.’ “
We’ll monitor the news from Putin’s speech and update with highlights.
Sunday, as we reported, an overwhelming majority of those Crimeans who voted said they want their semi-autonomous region, which has been part of Ukraine since 1954, to join the Russian Federation.
On Monday, the U.S. and European Union announced sanctions on some Russians close to Putin who are accused of interfering in Ukrainian affairs. President Obama, European leaders and the new interim government in Ukraine say the vote in Crimea violated both Ukraine’s constitution and international law. Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius added that Russia has also been suspended from the “Group of Eight” — the club of leading industrialized nations. The other members had already suspended planning for a G-8 summit in Sochi, Russia, that had been scheduled for June. (Those seven other nations: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.S. and the U.K.)
The U.S. and its allies have also condemned the presence of Russian troops and pro-Russian “self-defense forces” in Crimea. Russian forces have effectively been in control on the Crimean Peninsula for most of the past two weeks. They have surrounded or taken control of Ukrainian military bases and other strategic locations. So far, there have been no serious confrontations between the two militaries — Ukrainian forces have stayed in their posts.
Putin says Russia is looking to protect the majority ethnic-Russian population in Crimea from “nationalists” in Ukraine. He also says Russia supports what he calls Crimea’s right to “self-determination.”
On Tuesday, Putin foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov said the Western sanctions have provoked only “irony and sarcasm” in Russia, Reuters reports.
Here’s a quick recap of the crisis in Ukraine and some additional background:
As we’ve previously said, Crimea has been the focus of attention as the ripple effects of the protests that led to last month’s ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych have spread.
Summing up the history and importance of Crimea to Russia and Ukraine isn’t possible in just a few sentences, of course. The Parallels blog, though, has published several posts that contain considerable context:
We’ve recapped what set off months of protest in Kiev and ultimately led to Yanukovych’s dismissal by his nation’s parliament last month this way:
“The protests were sparked in part by the president’s rejection of a pending trade treaty with the European Union and his embrace of more aid from Russia. Protesters were also drawn into the streets to demonstrate against government corruption.”
It was after Yanukovych left Kiev and headed for the Russian border that troops moved to take control of strategic locations in Crimea.