Defiant Russia: Putin Unimpressed by EU-US Sanctions

Written by | Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Monday (17 March) formally recognizing the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea as a “sovereign and independent state”.  One day later, on Tuesday (18 March) Russian President and the leaders of Crimea signed a bill to absorb the peninsula into Russia, defying the European Union and United States, only hours after the two allies imposed the first sanctions on Russian officials since the end of the Cold War. In an apparent escalation of the tensions, Ukrainian officer has been killed in an attack on a base in Crimea, the first such death since pro-Russia forces took control in February, prompting Kiev to authorize its troops to fire in self-defense. Western powers condemned the treaty that sealed the absorption of Crimea into Russia and announced that a G7 and EU crisis meeting will be held next week in The Hague.
As “promised” by the EU and US leaders, Russia was slapped by sanctions on Monday in response to the referendum on Crimea that took place on Sunday (March 16). Although the referendum was accepted and recognized by Moscow, both Brussels and Washington deem it illegal and illegitimate. According to the official results, more than 96 per cent of Crimean voters expressed their support for the secession from Ukraine. This will effectively be the most fundamental redrawing of the Europe’s map since 2008 when Kosovo claimed independence.  EU foreign ministers said that, as of March 17, the EU has imposed travel bans and asset freezes against 13 Russian officials and eight Ukrainian officials from the disputed region. Brussels did not reveal the blacklist of the sanctioned ones but ensured that more punitive measures are to come in the upcoming days. The EU’s sanctions were ensued by an American announcement that it was imposing financial sanctions on seven top lawmakers and officials of the Russian duma.
US President Obama commented that the joint decision to impose sanctions on Russia has been guided by a fundamental principle and emphasized that the future of Ukraine must be decided by the people of Ukraine. He added that Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty must be respected, and international law must be upheld. Another US official called these steps against Russia as the most comprehensive sanctions against Moscow since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. He added that those blacklisted by Washington will be also banned from doing any business on the territory of the United States. Putin himself, suspected in the West of trying to resurrect the former Soviet Union under Russian leadership, does not appear on either of the blacklists. However, the Russian leader appeared rather unimpressed and flashed smiles, described as “mysterious” by some, at a ceremony in which he personally awarded Russian athletes who competed in the recent Sochi Paralympic games.

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