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Putin formally gets Crimea; Ukraine, EU sign deal

Russia's Annexation Of Crimea Is Complete

MOSCOW (AP) -- President Vladimir Putin completed his annexation of Crimea on Friday, signing the Black Sea peninsula into Russia just as Ukraine itself sealed a deal pulling the country closer into Europe's orbit.

Putin said he saw no need to further retaliate against U.S. sanctions, a newly conciliatory tone apparently aiming to contain one of the worst crises in Russia's relations with the West since the Cold War. His spokesman, however, later kept the Kremlin's warning open that it could consider various options.

At Ukrainian bases on the peninsula, troops hesitated, besieged by Russian forces and awaiting orders. Russia claimed some had already switched sides and agreed to join the Russian military. Friday had been the deadline for Ukrainian troops to leave Crimea, join the Russian military or demobilize.

Russia rushed the annexation of the strategic peninsula after Sunday's hastily called referendum in which its residents overwhelmingly backed leaving Ukraine and joining Russia. Ukraine and the West have rejected the vote, held two weeks after Russian troops had seized control of Crimea. The U.S. and EU have responded to the crisis by slapping sanctions on Russia.

Putin hailed the incorporation of Crimea into Russia as a "remarkable event" before he signed the parliament bills into law Friday in the Kremlin. He also ordered fireworks in Moscow and Crimea.

At nearly the same time in a ceremony in Brussels, Ukraine's new prime minister pulled his nation closer to Europe by signing a political association agreement with the European Union. It was the same deal that touched off Ukraine's political crisis, the deal that President Viktor Yanukovych rejected in November, igniting the months of protests that drove him from office and sent him fleeing to Russia.

"Russia decided to actually impose a new post-Cold War order and revise the results of the Second World War," Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said in Brussels. "The best way to contain Russia is to impose real economic leverage over them."

President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered a second round of sanctions against nearly two dozen members of Putin's inner circle and a major bank supporting them.

Moscow retaliated by banning nine U.S. officials and lawmakers from entering Russia, but Putin indicated that Russia would likely refrain from curtailing cooperation in areas such as Afghanistan. Moscow appears to hope to limit the damage.

But the latest U.S. sanctions, which targeted Putin's chief of staff along with other senior Kremlin aides and four businessmen considered to be his lifelong friends, dealt a painful blow to Russia. Obama also warned that more sweeping penalties against Russia's economy, including its robust energy sector, could follow.

International rating agencies downgraded Russia's outlook and Russian stocks tumbled Friday.

"The economic impact of the sanctions is already visible - on the stock exchange, the value of the Ruble, the investment climate," EU President Herman Van Rompuy told VRT network.

Putin tried to play down the sanctions' toll on Russia at Friday's televised session of the presidential Security Council.

"We should keep our distance from those people who compromise us," he said, a jocular reference to the officials on the sanctions list, some of whom attended the meeting.

Putin added sardonically that he would open an account to keep his salary in the targeted Bank Rossiya, a private bank that is owned by Yuri Kovalchuk, considered to be Putin's longtime friend and banker. With about $10 billion in assets, Rossiya ranks as the 17th-largest bank in Russia and maintains numerous ties to banks in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

At the same time, Putin said he sees no immediate need for further Russian retaliation to the U.S. sanction.

"We must refrain from retaliatory steps for now," Putin said.

But Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, later said that Russia would retaliate to the latest U.S. sanctions.

"We will react every time. We responded to the first round of sanctions, and we will respond to those too," he said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency. He did not elaborate.

Russia is expected to play a major role in the planned withdrawal of U.S. and other NATO forces from Afghanistan later this year by providing transit corridors via its territory, and Putin seemed to indicate that the Kremlin at this stage has no intentions of shutting the route.

Moscow also appeared to be warming to the deployment of monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the top trans-Atlantic security and rights group.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia would welcome sending the OSCE observers to Russian-speaking regions in eastern Ukraine on condition that their number and locations are clearly set, but he made it clear that they wouldn't be let into Crimea.

In Crimea, heavily armed Russian forces and pro-Russia militia have blocked Ukrainian military at their bases for weeks. Following Sunday's referendum they have moved aggressively to flush the Ukrainians out, storming some ships and military facilities.

The Ukrainian government said it was drawing up plans to evacuate its outnumbered troops from Crimea, but many soldiers still remained. At the Ukrainian military air base in Belbek, outside Sevastopol, Col. Yuly Mamchur told reporters Friday he was still waiting for orders from his commanders on whether to vacate.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Friday told Putin that 72 Ukrainian military units in Crimea have decided to join the Russian military. His claim couldn't be independently confirmed.

Amid its political crisis, Ukraine is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, struggling to pay off billions of dollars in debts in the coming months. The U.S. and the European Union have pledged to quickly offer a bailout.

It owes Russia $2 billion in overdue payments for natural gas supplies. Putin made it clear that Russia will further raise the heat on Ukraine by urging it to pay back a $3 billion bailout loan granted to Yanukovych in December.

In addition, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev suggested that Russia should reclaim $11 billion in gas rebates it gave Ukraine in exchange for a deal extending Russia's lease on its navy base in Crimea until 2042. Medvedev argued that since Crimea is part of Russia now, the deal is void.


Mike Corder and Raf Casert in Brussels, Belgium and John-Thor Dahlburg in Sevastopol, Crimea, contributed to this report.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
bert hall March 21 2014 at 10:41 AM


Flag Reply +8 rate up
3 replies
Scotty March 21 2014 at 12:41 PM

Thank you President Obama. We all thank you for your failure as our leader.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
Marina March 21 2014 at 11:35 AM

"... What doesn't kill you makes you stronger
Stand a little taller
Doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone

What doesn't kill you makes a fighter
Footsteps even lighter
Doesn't mean I'm over 'cause you're gone..."

Really, do you think this "sanctions" will do damage to Russia?
This is historical fact that Crimea belong to Russia since 1783. "The Crimean ASSR was abolished on 30 June 1945 and transformed into the Crimean Oblast (province) of the Russian SFSR.
On 19 February 1954, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union issued a decree transferring the Crimean Oblast from the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.[36][37] The transfer of the Crimean Oblast to Ukraine has been described as a "symbolic gesture," marking the 300th anniversary of Ukraine becoming a part of the Russian Empire.[38][39] The General Secretary of the Communist Party in Soviet Union at the time was Ukrainian native Nikita Khrushchev." (Wikipedia.com)
Can you see how close Ukrainians and Russians used to be?
Ukraine separated from Russia. Good for her!, but shouldn't she expect that Russia simply take back that belong to her?
Biggest question is: How it is our business?

Flag Reply +4 rate up
2 replies
nReno Marina March 21 2014 at 11:47 AM

You need to do more research. Yes the sanctions have and will continue to do damage to Russia. It has been and will remain a damaged country because it is controlled by a false Utopia for which the leaders have everything to gain and the ordinary people have everything to lose because every aspect of their ordinary lives are controlled.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
bobgerbracht Marina March 21 2014 at 12:00 PM

You are correct -- the Crimea has been part of Russia for hundreds of years. It was "transferred" from Russia to Ukraine purely as a symbolic gesture when both were part of the Soviet Union. The citizens of Crimea were never consulted.

When the Soviet Union collapsed and Russia and Ukraine become separate countries, it should have been transferred back to Russia. However, at the time, the focus was on regaining control of the nuclear weapons that the disintegrating Soviet Union had left on Ukrainian soil -- in fact, the Ukraine had suddenly beomce the third largest nuclear power on the planet, but did not have any safety systems to protect those weapons. Nobody cared about the Crimea -- everybody wanted the nuclear weapons brought under control. So the Budapest Agreement of 1992 was rapidly signed -- the Crimea was ignored, but the nuclear weapons were returned. This was undoubtedly the right thing to do at the time, but it laid the seeds for the problem we have today.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
martinhanl March 21 2014 at 12:43 PM

When is the British going to give up the Falklands or Northern Ireland..........when is the U.S. going to give up Okinawa or it's bases in Saudia Arabia or Germany or Guantanamo etc....so whats with all the phoeey hypocrisy abpout Crimea....considering the Russian Imperial Navy is located there?...

Also the United States and the C.I.A. had no problem with a military coup in Egpt where thousands of protester's were gunned down in the streets with U.S. made weapon's after a Democratic election produced a freely elected leader who we didn't want!! And also the coup in Chile with Allende being murdered...........Ridiculous cynical posturing..........I have to say Putin has a point!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
PL March 21 2014 at 12:46 PM

It's like telling a first grader we have given him the honor to bake a beautiful cake for a country we love.

We put him in the kitchen only to find he decided to have fun instead. The kitchen is destroyed.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
Buddy Maxwell March 21 2014 at 4:32 PM

We may only wish all the noise will be droned out, and peace will ensue, or else!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
cherie4re March 21 2014 at 1:01 PM

Obama threating Putin is laughable!
And whatever happened to your apology tour Obama? how did that work out for ya? IDIOT

Flag Reply +5 rate up
tomidesmar March 21 2014 at 1:02 PM

It's as simple as this...
Putin drew a line in the sand. He didn't want Crimea to become aligned with the West. The people who protested so loudly last month may be having second thoughts now. They got their freedom but they lost Crimea. Russia always had legitimate claims to Crimea since it was aligned with them as part of the USSR and they have a big Navy base there on the Black sea that they did not want to see sitting in a different country with ties to the West. Can you blame them. We see now that Ukraine, minus Crimea has already signed a treaty aligning them more closely with western Europe and the US. Obama's sanctions will amount to nothing. It's a done deal. It was none of our business in the first place.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
htfcd March 21 2014 at 1:18 PM

It is understandable, that after years of anti-Russian propaganda by the US news, many here dislike Putin.
But in reality Russia was never a threat to US and never planned on invading US.
US is simply not OK with idea, that there is another country besides US, powerful enough to not ask US or EU for permission to do something of it's own interests.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
heylistenup1955 March 21 2014 at 1:19 PM

I have yet to hear a single newscast or read a single article which TRULY tells what is going on in the Crimea:
1.) The Crimea has been part of Russia since the late 1700s -- longer than the U.S. has been in existence. 78% of Crimeans are ethnic Russians.
2.) It would have remained part of Russia, except that in 1954 Kruschev, who was a Ukrainian by birth, signed a symbolic document that "transferred" the Crimea from the Soviet Republic of Russia to the Soviet Republic of Ukraine.
3.) In 1990, when the Soviet Union collapsed and the Ukraine became a separate country, the politicans at the time were more worried about regaining control of all of the nuclear weapons that the disintegrating Soviet Union had left in the Ukraine. So the 1992 Budapest Agreement ignored the transfer of Crimea back to Russia and instead focused on recovering the nuclear weapons -- which was the right thing to do, but laid the seeds for today's problem.

The fact is, in a perfect world, Crimea would have never been transferred from Russia to the Ukraine back in 1954, and it would have returned to Russia in 1992. But that is water under the bridge and the recent vote has resolved the issue.

Unfortunately all of the Russian-bashing by U.S. politicians shows either a lack of understanding of the history of this area or is simply ignoring it because we do not want Russian to gain control over a valuable piece of real estate -- even though it is rightfully theirs.

Flag Reply +11 rate up
7 replies
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