Russian President Vladimir Putin pressed forward on Tuesday with the procedure for bringing Ukraine’s Crimea region into Russia, informing his government and Parliament of the Crimean leadership’s proposal to join Russia.
The steps, announced by the Kremlin, came a day after Putin recognised Crimea as an independent state following a referendum in which its voters supported joining Russia. Putin is to address Parliament later on Tuesday.
Ignoring the toughest sanctions against Moscow since the end of the Cold War, Putin recognised Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula as an “independent and sovereign country”, a bold challenge to Washington that escalates one of Europe’s worst security crises in years.
The brief decree posted on the Kremlin’s website came just hours after the United States and the European Union announced asset freezes and other sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian officials involved in the Crimean crisis, yesterday.
US President Barack Obama warned that more would come if Russia didn’t stop interfering in Ukraine, and Putin’s move clearly forces his hand.
The West has struggled to find leverage to force Moscow to back off in the Ukraine turmoil, of which Crimea is only a part, and analysts saw yesterday’s sanctions as mostly ineffectual.