Putin signed an order "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 indicated
the president would sign the treaty with Crimea's Russian-installed
leader, who is in Moscow to request incorporation into Russia, but
it gave no date.
The move followed a disputed referendum in Crimea on Sunday, staged
under Russian military occupation, in which a Soviet-style 97
percent of voters were declared to have voted to return to Russian
rule, after 60 years as part of Ukraine.
By pressing ahead with steps to dismember Ukraine against its will,
Putin raised the stakes in the most serious East-West crisis since
the end of the Cold War.
But Ukraine's interim prime minister, Arseniy Yatseniuk, sought to
reassure Moscow on two key areas of concern, saying in a televised
address delivered in Russian that Kiev was not seeking to join NATO,
the U.S.-led military alliance, and would act to disarm Ukrainian
On Monday, the United States and the European Union imposed personal
sanctions on a handful of officials from Russia and Ukraine accused
of involvement in Moscow's military seizure of the Black Sea
peninsula, most of whose 2 million residents are ethnic Russians.
Russian politicians dismissed the sanctions as insignificant and a
badge of honor. The State Duma, or lower house, adopted a statement
urging Washington and Brussels to extend the visa ban and asset
freeze to all its members.
Leonid Slutsky, one of the lawmakers on the sanctions list, hailed
Crimea's decision as historic. "Today we see justice and truth
reborn," he said.
Japan joined the mild Western sanctions on Tuesday, announcing the
suspension of talks with Russia on investment promotion and visa
Putin was to address a special joint session of the Russian
parliament on the Crimea issue on Tuesday.
Russian forces took control of Crimea in late February following the
toppling of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich after deadly
clashes between riot police and protesters trying to overturn his
decision to spurn a trade and cooperation deal with the EU and seek
closer ties with Russia.
Despite strongly worded condemnations of the Crimean referendum,
Western nations were cautious in their first practical steps against
Moscow, seeking to leave the door open for a diplomatic solution.
Russian stocks and the ruble rallied strongly on Monday as investors
noted the initial sanctions did not target businesses or executives.
But shares gave up early gains on Tuesday and the ruble fell 0.6
percent against the dollar and the euro.
In a sign of the negative impact of the crisis on the investment
climate, Russia's state property agency said it may postpone major
privatization deals until the second half of the year.
U.S. President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on 11 Russians and
Ukrainians blamed for the military seizure of Crimea, including
Yanukovich, and Vladislav Surkov and Sergei Glazyev, two aides to
Putin himself, suspected in the West of trying to resurrect as much
as possible of the former Soviet Union under Russian leadership, was
not on the blacklist.
Amid fears that Russia might move into eastern Ukraine, Obama warned
that "further provocations" would only increase Russia's isolation
and exact a greater toll on its economy.
A senior U.S. official said Obama's order cleared the way to
sanction people associated with the arms industry and to target "the
personal wealth of cronies" of the Russian leadership.
EU foreign ministers agreed to subject 21 Russian and Ukrainian
officials to visa restrictions and asset freezes.
[to top of second column]
There were only three names in common on the U.S. and European lists — Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov, Crimean parliament Speaker
Vladimir Konstantinov and Slutsky, chairman of the Duma's committee
on the Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent States, or CIS,
grouping former Soviet republics.
The U.S. list targeted
higher-profile Russian officials close to Putin while the EU went
for mid-ranking officials and military commanders more directly
involved on the ground.
Washington and Brussels said more measures could follow in the
coming days if Russia formally annexes Crimea.
The EU also said its leaders would sign the political part of an
association agreement with Ukraine on Friday, in a gesture of
support for the fragile coalition brought to power by last month's
uprising. The accord does not include any commitment to eventual EU
membership, on which the bloc's members are divided.
Highlighting rifts in the EU, member state Austria offered on
Tuesday to mediate between Moscow and the West. Chancellor Werner
Faymann said Vienna's military neutrality made it an "honest
broker", while Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said he felt
understanding for both sides in the conflict.
Putin has declared that Russia has the right to defend, by military
force if necessary, Russian citizens and Russian speakers living in
former Soviet republics, raising concerns that Moscow may intervene
Putin has repeatedly accused the new leadership in Kiev of failing
to protect Russian-speakers from violent Ukrainian nationalists.
Ukraine's government has accused Moscow of staging provocations in
Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine to justify military
In a symbolic gesture, Askyonov announced on Twitter that Crimea
would switch to Moscow time from March 30, putting it two hours
ahead of the rest of Ukraine.
In the Crimean capital Simferopol, the local government and
businesses set about preparing for the switch to Russian rule.
Members of volunteer security groups, who had helped local police
and Russian forces keep order in the referendum run-up, handed in
their red armbands on the central Lenin Square, where a statue of
the founder of the Soviet Union still stands.
Banks scrambled to introduce the ruble as an official currency
alongside the Ukrainian hryvnia, although the switch could take
place at the end of the month after March pensions and salaries are
cleared, banking sources said.
Members of the pan-European Organisation for Security and
Cooperation in Europe were meeting again in Vienna to discuss the
prospects for sending a monitoring mission to Ukraine.
An OSCE spokeswoman tweeted that there was no consensus yet, and all
57 members would have to agree on a detailed mandate. Diplomats said
Russia had been blocking this. One said Moscow wanted any reference
to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine removed from
(Additional reporting by Mike Collett-White and Aleksandar Vasovic
in Simferopol, Michael Shields in Vienna and Jason Bush in Moscow;
writing by Paul Taylor; editing by Giles Elgood)
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