“While the world is convinced that Putin’s Tuesday press conference was an admission of blinking to the west, the reality is anything but that, and hours ago Crimea’s parliament voted to join Russia on Thursday and its Moscow-backed government set a referendum within 10 days on the decision in what Reuters said is a “a dramatic escalation of the crisis over the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula.” To be sure, the Crimea – which has an ethnic Russian majority – affiliation to Moscow as opposed to Kiev is well-known, yet still the sudden acceleration of moves to bring Crimea formally under Moscow’s rule came as European Union leaders gathered for an emergency summit to seek ways to pressure Russia to back down and accept mediation. And now all Putin has to do is sit back and say the people have spoken and without spilling a drop of blood has effectively split the country in two parts, with the entire east of Ukraine, where pro-Russian sentiment also runs high – sure to follow Crimea. Just as we said from the very beginning.
The Crimean parliament voted unanimously “to enter into the Russian Federation with the rights of a subject of the Russian Federation”. The vice premier of Crimea, home to Russia’s Black Sea military base in Sevastopol, said a referendum on the status would take place on March 16. The announcement, which diplomats said could not have been made without Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approval, raised the stakes in the most serious east-west confrontation since the end of the Cold War.
Far from seeking a diplomatic way out, Putin appears to have chosen to create facts on the ground before the West can agree on more than token action against him.
EU leaders had been set to warn but not sanction Russia over its military intervention after Moscow rebuffed Western diplomatic efforts to persuade it to pull forces in Crimea, with a population of about 2 million, back to their bases. It was not immediately clear what impact the Crimean moves would have.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a Twitter message: “We stand by a united and inclusive #Ukraine.”
French President Francois Hollande told reporters on arrival at the summit: “There will be the strongest possible pressure on Russia to begin lowering the tension and in the pressure there is, of course, eventual recourse to sanctions.”
To be sure, the new Kiev government – which may or may not have killed its own citizens in order to rise to power while blaming the atrocities on Yanukovich as described yesterday – has responded in kind to how Putin views them, and declared the referendum illegal and opened a criminal investigation against Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Askyonov, who was appointed by the region’s parliament last week. The Ukrainian government does not recognise his authority or that of the parliament. Still, it is by now far too late for Kiev to enforce its will in Crimea.
In the meantime…”Twitter