EU Meets On Russia Sanctions After Crimean Secession Vote

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- European Union foreign ministers met to impose sanctions on Russia amid the worst diplomatic standoff since the Cold War after a referendum yesterday paved the way for President Vladimir Putin to annex Crimea.
Crimea was given to Ukraine 60 years ago by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

Crimean lawmakers set in motion measures today for the Black Sea peninsula to leave Ukraine and join Russia following the vote.

A senior Russian lawmaker said it’s “technically possible” to complete the incorporation of Crimea by the end of March 21.

Ukrainian lawmakers approved plans to mobilize an extra 20,000 reservists and conscripts because of concern that Russia may try to send troops into the east of the country.

The Brussels meeting will mark the opening round of sanctions designed to punish Russia for its actions so far and to deter any further encroachment into Ukrainian territory.

While this week’s measures will probably focus on travel bans and assets freezes, U.S. and EU officials will keep more sweeping steps in reserve until Putin shows his hand.

“There has been no sign of de-escalation or compromises on the part of Russia,” U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague, who’s in Brussels for the EU talks, told BBC Radio 4.

“There will be important consequences to Russia.”

‘Door Open’ 

Yesterday’s vote, which had a turnout of 83.1 percent, “is, under international law and under the Ukrainian constitution, illegal,” the 28-nation EU’s foreign-policy chief, Catherine Ashton, told reporters.

Still, Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, said the aim was “to keep the door open” for dialogue and that sanctions would be on a “limited list” of people, probably for a set period.

Russian stocks rallied for the first time in five days and bonds rose as investors bet any sanctions against the country may be milder than expected.

The Micex Index added 2.4 percent to 1,266.84 by 2:40 p.m. in Moscow.

Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek told reporters that sanctions would be imposed against about 20 Russians and Crimeans, with the initial list including officials deemed responsible for violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

A total of 96.8 percent of Crimean voters backed joining Russia yesterday, the head of the election commission, Mikhail Malyshev, told reporters.

The results don’t include one city, Sevastopol.

The government in Moscow said the referendum in Crimea, which was part of Russia until 1954, “fully met international norms.”

Sovereign State 

Crimean lawmakers voted today to declare the region a sovereign state and to ask to join the Russian Federation, according to a statement on the legislature’s website.

They granted powers to Speaker Vladimir Konstantinov and Prime Minister Sergei Aksenov to sign an accession treaty with Russia and named the Russian ruble the official currency.

Russia will need to ratify the accord, to be signed by Putin, in its lower house of parliament, the State Duma, according to government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

Lawmakers in both chambers of parliament will also have to approve changes to the constitution to incorporate Crimea as the country’s 84th region, it said.

Alexander Ageyev, the first deputy head of the Russian State Duma’s committee for constitutional affairs, said the accession process could be finished by the end of the week.

‘Move Forward’ 

“This isn’t a deadline set in stone, but there is a will to move forward quickly on this,” Ageyev, a member of the pro-Kremlin Just Russia party, said by phone.

Putin will address Russian lawmakers on situation in Crimea tomorrow at 3 p.m. Moscow time, the Interfax news service reported.

The Kremlin has deployed about 60,000 troops along the Ukrainian border, the government in Kiev said.

Reports of Russia’s increasing military presence follow accusations by Ukraine over the weekend that its neighbor’s troops entered the Kherson region on the Azov Sea from the Crimea peninsula.

“We strongly believe that we have to tackle those who are responsible for making decisions,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia told Bloomberg Television.

“We are interested in not affecting the Russian people who are opposing the war.” 

Krushschev’s Gift 

A majority of Crimea’s residents are ethnic Russians.

Putin contends they are at risk after the ouster last month of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, an assertion that Ukraine’s new leaders deny.

The peninsula was given to Ukraine 60 years ago by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

The international community “will not recognize the results of a poll administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention,” the White House said in a statement.

“Russia’s actions are dangerous and destabilizing. Military intervention and violation of international law will bring increasing costs for Russia.”

President Barack Obama signed an executive order authorizing U.S. financial sanctions, allowing Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew to take steps that could include freezing assets or blocking American companies or individuals from doing business with Russians, Ukrainians or others deemed a threat to Ukraine’s security.

Putin spoke with Obama yesterday and said even amid differing views it’s necessary to work together to stabilize Ukraine, the Kremlin said on its website.

Obama told Putin no diplomatic resolution is possible “while Russian military forces continue their incursions into Ukrainian territory,” the White House said in a statement.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden travels to Poland and Lithuania today for talks on Ukraine, according to the White House.

The Pentagon said last week it would send 12 F-16 aircraft to Poland, which borders Ukraine, and previously sent six fighter jets to Lithuania.

Source: Bloomberg


Igor Skakovsky said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Igor Skakovsky said…
Ukrainian Aligarh’s should create, own and pay for special forces (about 1,500 personal) which will be a private units with no national insignia. Those units could be used around the world to protect Aligarh’s interests, such as pirates and terrorists.