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West furious as Crimea accepted into Russia

Published time: March 18, 2014 19:09
Edited time: March 19, 2014 04:30

People react as they watch the Russian President make a speech on a huge screen set in the center of the city of Sevastopol, in Crimea, on March 18, 2014. (AFP Photo / Viktor Drachev)

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Following the signing of the treaty of accession of Crimea and Sevastopol into the Russian Federation, there has been an outspoken backlash and threats from key G7 members, who are organizing a meeting next week.

At the signing on Tuesday, Crimea was represented by Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov and Sevastopol mayor, Aleksey Chaly, who added his name to the treaty. The two were accompanied by Crimean parliamentary speaker, Vladimir Konstantinov.

Shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin added his name to the agreements, US President Barack Obama announced that Western leaders would be gathering to decide the next course of action. Among G7 members addressing the agreement between Crimea and Russia were the US, France, Germany and the UK.

“The meeting will focus on the situation in Ukraine and further steps that the G7 may take to respond to developments and to support Ukraine,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement, “We would not recognize this attempted annexation,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters in a briefing.

G7 leaders have already suspended arrangements for a G8 summit, which had been scheduled to take place in Sochi in June because of disagreements over Ukraine.

As meetings were held in Warsaw between US Vice President Joe Biden, Estonian President Toomas Ilves and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Biden announced that Russia would see ‘additional sanctions’ from the US and the EU if the country continued to ‘annex’ Crimea.

“Russia has offered a variety of arguments to justify what is nothing more than a land grab,” Biden stated.

US Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk address a press conference after their meeting in Warsaw, Poland on March 18, 2013. (AFP Photo / Janek Skarzynski)

Tusk expressed additional concerns to a televised news conference: “Russia's annexation of Crimea can't be accepted by the international community including Poland. In one moment this changes the country's (Ukraine) borders and the geopolitical situation in this region of the world,” Tusk announced.

Estonian President Toomas Ilves reiterated at the meeting that a US presence in Europe is absolutely vital.

“It is important to immediately resume dialogue to develop a solution to the crisis,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday. He added that Ki-moon has urged that all parties involved avoid escalation, saying they need “to work to find a solution that would not be contrary to the UN Charter, and does not violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, tweeted on Tuesday that the EU “does not and will not recognize the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol to the Russian Federation.” In a joint statement released by Barroso and president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, they called the referendum in Crimea “illegal and illegitimate,” noting that “the European Council will discuss the situation in Ukraine at its meeting this week and agree on a united European response.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron stated that the decision to “annex” Crimea would result in Russia facing “serious consequences” for the alleged breach of international law. “I will push European leaders to agree further EU measures when we meet on Thursday,” read the statement published on the Number 10 website, adding that it sent a “chilling message” across Europe.

The strongly-worded statement was released shortly after the UK Foreign Secretary William Hague announced suspension of bilateral military cooperation with Russia, which included the cancellation of a pre-arranged joint naval exercise with both France and the US, and the visit of a Royal Navy ship to St. Petersburg.

“It was regrettable to hear President Putin today choosing the route of isolation, denying the citizens of his own country, and of Crimea, partnership with the international community and full membership of a range of international organizations,” Hague told Parliament.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague (AFP Photo / Ben Stansall)

French President Francois Hollande weighed in, stating that he ‘condemned’ the decision. “France does not recognize either the results of the referendum ... or the attachment of this Ukrainian region to Russia,” he asserted.

German Chancellor Angela backed her European counterparts, accusing Russia of violating international law through “the absorption [of Crimea] into the Russian Federation”. It emerged later on Tuesday that Merkel had discussed the situation with Obama on the telephone to make efforts “to continue coordinating response to the situation in Ukraine,” Ben Rhodes, White House deputy national security adviser wrote on Twitter.

Hollande announced that he was hoping for a “strong and coordinated European response” to be arranged at the next European Council meeting, planned for March 20-21.

On Monday, some 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials fell under the impact of travel bans and asset freezes from the EU. It was previously made known that the EU had compiled a list of some 120-130 names of senior Russian officials who may fall victim to travel bans and asset freezes as part of sanctions. The US introduced similar visa bans and asset freezes on 11 Russians and Ukrainians on the same day.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry stated on Tuesday that Western sanctions would “lead nowhere” and there would be retaliation. “This does not bother me - on the contrary, I'm proud,” stated close Putin aide, Vladislav Surkov, told reporters, "I consider this a kind of political Oscar from America for best male supporting role,” he added.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told US Secretary of State John Kerry that Western sanctions against Russia over Crimea are unacceptable and warned of consequences in the future.

"[Crimea] republic residents made their democratic choice in line with the international law and the UN charter, which Russia accepts and respects," the statement said, "while the sanctions introduced by the United States and the European Union are unacceptable and will not remain without consequences."

“Canadian PM Stephen Harper put me on the list,” Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin stated on Twitter. Rogozin is on both US and Canadian sanctions lists. “Looks like they're also looking for my accounts and villas. They wish!” he said, having earlier reminded the international community that he had no assets in the US.

A woman jumps for joy during a broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin's address to the Federal Assembly in Sevastopol March 18, 2014. (Reuters / Baz Ratner)

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has condemned Russia for signing the treaty of accession with Crimea, saying Moscow has embarked on a "dangerous path," Reuters reports.

"I condemn President [Vladimir] Putin's announcement of new laws incorporating Crimea into the Russian Federation," Rasmussen said in a statement.

"Russia has disregarded all calls to step back into line with international law and continues down the dangerous path...There can be no justification to continue on this course of action that can only deepen Russia's international isolation. Crimea's annexation is illegal and illegitimate and NATO allies will not recognize it."