Putin ignores sanctions while accepting Crimean sovereignty
EU and US threaten tougher measures if Ukraine crisis escalates
Couples dance in Lenin Square on Monday in Simferopol, Ukraine after voters on the autonomous Ukrainian peninsular of Crimea voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to secede from their country and join Russia. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Russia has recognised Crimea’s declaration of independence from Ukraine, as President Vladimir Putin brushed aside European Union and United States sanctions against his allies.
Mr Putin signed a decree acknowledging Crimea’s sovereignty last night, hours after the EU imposed visa restrictions and asset freezes on 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials and the US aimed similar measures at 11 figures from the two countries, including close aides of the Kremlin leader.
Mr Putin will make a special address on Crimea to deputies from Russia’s parliament today, amid a deepening crisis over Ukraine that has dragged east-west relations to their lowest point since the cold war. In what Kiev and its western allies denounced as a breach of international law, Crimea voted on Sunday to join Russia.
Brussels and Washington said they would extend the range and severity of sanctions if Mr Putin continued to undermine the sovereignty of Ukraine, where the new government accuses him of planning to annex Crimea and possibly invade eastern, largely Russophone regions.
“Any further steps by the Russian Federation to destabilise the situation in Ukraine would lead to additional and far-reaching consequences for relations in a broad range of economic areas,” EU foreign ministers said in a statement yesterday.
Moscow’s financial markets rebounded, however, reflecting a widely-held view that the EU measures were far weaker than Russia had feared, and Ukraine had hoped.
Radek Sikorski, Poland’s foreign minister, admitted that officials hit by the EU measures were less influential than the US targets. “It is easier for the US to take such decisions. First of all, they are further away [from Russia] and any economic consequences are not as painful,” he said.