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Главная » 2014 » Март » 18 » Putin formally recognizes Crimea as an independent state
Putin formally recognizes Crimea as an independent state
View Photo Gallery — Crimeans vote to join Russia: Residents of the Ukrainian peninsula turned out in large numbers for the referendum.
By Karen DeYoung, Griff Witte and Kathy Lally, Updated: Monday, March 17, 11:37 PM E-mail the writers
Russian President Vladi­mir Putin formally recognized Crimea as an independent state Monday, defying new U.S. and European sanctions imposed on Russian and Ukrainian officials, including some of his top aides, in response to Moscow’s moves to take over the region.
A statement posted Monday evening on the Kremlin Web site said Putin signed an order recognizing Crimea’s independence, effective immediately. Crimeans voted overwhelmingly Sunday to secede from Ukraine, a first step toward what pro-Russian leaders in the autonomous region hope will become accession to the Russian Federation.
"Given the declaration of will by the Crimean people in a nationwide referendum held on March 16, 2014, the Russian Federation is to recognize the Republic of Crimea as a sovereign and independent state, whose city of Sevastopol has a special status,” the Kremlin statement said. Sevastopol, Crimea’s main port, hosts the principal base of Russia’s Black Sea fleet. The reference to it as a city with a special status means that Russia considers it a separate administrative unit.
The recognition of independence does not automatically mean that Russia will annex the peninsula, although it could be a step in that direction, analysts said. Russia also recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which broke away from the republic of Georgia in 2008, but never absorbed them as a part of the Russian Federation although it supports them financially.

The move came hours after the Obama administration slapped sanctions on 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials, saying it was targeting "cronies” and senior advisers of Putin, the Russian arms industry and those responsible for an overall policy of military and political moves to take over Ukraine’s Crimea region and destabilize other portions of Ukraine.

The U.S. move and similar measures by the European Union were aimed at punishing officials deemed responsible for Crimea’s effort to join Russia, following through on a pledge by the West before Sunday’s secession referendum in Crimea.

The U.S. sanctions against seven Russians and four Ukrainians include freezes on all assets over which the United States has control, a block on all transactions in dollars, and a ban on travel to the United States.

The European Union also announced similar sanctions on 21 individuals, four of whom are also targeted by the Obama administration.

The E.U. list, released late Monday, names 13 Russians, seven Crimeans and a Ukrainian naval commander who pledged allegiance to Crimea in the days before the referendum.

The U.S. goal, President Obama said, is "to isolate Russia for its actions, and to reassure our allies and partners” of American support.

"Further provocations will achieve nothing . . . except further isolation,” Obama said in a statement he delivered in the White House briefing room.

The U.S. action promptly came under criticism from congressional Republicans, who complained that it did not go far enough.

The measures were based on an executive order that Obama signed 10 days ago and a new order implemented Monday that expands the sanctions’ reach to Russian officials.

"These are by far the most comprehensive sanctions applied to Russia since the Cold War,” a senior administration official said. "Far and away so.”

The second order is exceptionally broad to enable the administration to take additional action if Russia does not move to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine, said this official and others who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity on the details behind Obama’s announcement.

Far beyond the situation in Crimea or even Ukraine, the sanctions order potentially includes anyone who is "a senior official” of the Russian government, or is involved in "the arms and related materiel sector in the Russian Federation,” or who has operated "for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly,” for any of the above.

The seven Russians initially targeted include top Putin aides Sergei Glazyev and Vladislav Surkov; Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin; and leaders of the Russian parliament who have been particularly outspoken in advocating Crimean annexation and belligerent policies toward Ukraine.

Under the sanctions, a senior administration official said, "all assets are frozen, no U.S. person can do business with them. . . . If they want to transact in dollars, for example, they will be unable to do so. They will be unable to send any money through the United States.”

"More broadly,” said the official, one of several who spoke on condition of anonymity to explain the details behind Obama’s announcement, "the people we designate will tend to find great difficulty in accessing financial services elsewhere in the world, particularly in Europe and the [Persian] Gulf.”

Ukrainians designated under the original executive order include two Crimea-based separatist leaders and ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

Another senior official emphasized that the current measures against Russia are "to target cronies” of Putin, "to target their personal assets and wealth.” But, the official said, "we will not rule out additional steps in the future.”

"Going forward, we have the ability to ramp up our pressure or, if the Russians make a different set of choices, to de-escalate.”

Obama and senior officials repeated U.S. demands that Russia send its troops in Crimea back to their barracks, stop military maneuvers that threaten other areas of Ukraine and open talks with the Ukrainian government.

Putin himself is not on the list, the second senior official said, because "it is highly unusual to sanction a head of state. . . . However, if you look at these seven, these are clearly people who are very close to Putin, who provide him with a lot of the advice, support and implementation of the policies we’ve seen in Crimea. There is no question that this hits close to home.”

The E.U. and U.S. sanctions lists have just four names in common: two top Crimean leaders and two Russian legislators.

Unlike the United States, Europe chose not to sanction top Putin aides or Rogozin, the deputy prime minister, during this round. But several senior Russian military commanders who are not on the American list now face penalties in Europe.

They include the commander of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, which is based in Crimea, as well as the commanders of Russia’s western and southern military districts. Troops from both commands have been actively involved in the takeover of Crimea, the E.U. said.

"The ability to sanction the cronies who provide support to the Russian government really gets to individuals who have dedicated significant resources to supporting President Putin and the policies of the Russian government under him,” the senior U.S. official said.

"If the Russians continue to move forward with policies that escalate this situation, we would continue to be able to designate individuals and pursue sanctions” against them. "We are calibrating our response . . . to actions that Russia takes in the coming days.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called for "a far more significant response,” saying that sanctioning only seven Russians "is wholly inadequate at this stage.”

Without stronger U.S. and Western reaction, McCain said in a statement, "we run the risk of signaling to Putin that he can be even more expansive in furthering his old imperial ambitions, not only in Ukraine, but also in Central and Eastern Europe, the Baltic countries and parts of Central Asia.” He urged the Obama administration to "rush the modest military assistance to the Ukrainian government that its leaders have requested.”

Sen. Ted. Cruz (R-Tex.) urged Obama to install anti-ballistic missiles in Eastern Europe. "Appeasement hasn’t worked,” he told The Washington Post. He said an expanded military presence in Poland and the Czech Republic, similar to a missile-defense plan proposed by President George W. Bush and scrapped by the Obama administration in 2009, would provide a counterbalance to Putin’s regional power.

Obama told reporters Monday morning that "Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected, and international law must be upheld.” He called the referendum in Crimea a "clear violation” of Ukraine’s constitution as well as international law.

Accordingly, he said, the United States is implementing "a series of measures that will continue to increase the cost on Russia” of its intervention in Ukraine.

Obama warned that "further provocations” by Moscow would only isolate Russia further. But he said he still holds out hope for a diplomatic resolution based on the withdrawal of Russian forces to their bases in Crimea, the introduction of international monitors into the region and a dialogue between Moscow and the government in Kiev.

A senior administration official in Washington acknowledged that the U.S. and E.U. sanctions lists were not identical.

"The E.U., looking at the same set of circumstances, made slightly different choices in some areas,” the official said. "But the lists have overlap both in terms of names and in terms of categories of people.”

The announcement in Washington came as E.U. foreign ministers met in Brussels to decide how hard to push Moscow a day after Crimeans voted to secede in a referendum that was condemned in Washington and in capitals across Europe.

A European Union statement called on Russia to end its military buildup in Crimea and to decline to annex the territory, warning of "additional and far-reaching consequences for relations in a broad range of economic areas” if Russia does not back down.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said on Twitter that there would be more penalties imposed by Europe within days — a warning that was echoed by other top officials, including British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Several Eastern European nations have pushed for particularly tough sanctions, fearing that unchecked Russian advances in Ukraine could set a bad precedent that could directly affect their borders.

But European Union heavyweights such as Germany and Britain have deep economic ties to Russia, and officials have spent days wrangling over whether the sanctions should hit at Putin’s inner circle.

Pressed on whether European sanctions were "softer” than those imposed by Washington, E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Tuesday that U.S. and E.U. officials were cooperating closely. But, she added, "They make their own decisions. We make ours.”

Ashton said she hoped the sanctions announced Monday would force Russia to de-escalate and would eliminate the need for additional penalties that remain in the pipeline.

"I really hope that the decision Russia will take will be the right one,” she said.

The Obama administration promised last week to exact a cost if the vote in Crimea were held — even before new Russian military exercises on Ukraine’s eastern and southern borders and Saturday’s seizure of a Ukrainian gas plant just beyond Crimea’s northern boundary.

The question for the West is whether harsh retribution now will make Putin more or less likely to desist from further action. Although he has so far shrugged off American and European threats, U.S. officials think that the costs already imposed on the Russian economy will become unbearable if Putin does not yield.

But Anatol Lieven, a professor of international relations at King’s College London, said the sanctions were highly unlikely to influence Putin’s moves in Crimea and were instead aimed at the next flashpoint: eastern Ukraine.

"Crimea is lost. In practice, there’s no way that Ukraine is ever going to get it back,” Lieven said. "The question now, and it’s a vastly greater strategic question, is what happens in eastern Ukraine.”

There, Russia has suggested in recent days that it may have to intervene to protect Russian speakers from attacks by right-wing Ukrainian nationalists. Ukraine has accused Russia of provoking violence to justify an invasion.

Lieven said many European nations are constrained in how far they feel they can go in confronting Russia because of economics. Tougher sanctions against individual Russians "would mean large numbers of Russian oligarchs repatriating their money from [British] banks and real estate. If Russia retaliates by cutting gas supplies, then the German economy would pay.”

Western officials say that is a price they are willing to bear, and they have pledged economic support to Ukraine.

Witte reported from London. Lally reported from Moscow. William Branigin and Robert Costa contributed to this report.

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