It finally happened, what the West has been trying to stop for weeks. Russia has begun the process of annexing Crimea — on live television.
During a speech in Moscow on Tuesday to members of both houses of Russia’s parliament, President Vladimir Putin announced he would formally make Crimea a part of Russia. The region, a sovereign territory of Ukraine, voted Sunday to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.
“Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia in the hearts and minds of people,” Putin said. “That faith has been preserved and passed on from generation to generation.”
After his speech, the Russian national anthem played, and then Putin and leaders from Crimea signed the draft annexation agreement. That agreement has to be ratified by both houses of Russia’s parliament and agreed to by Russia’s Constitutional Court, all of which is expected to happen soon. You can watch the full speech in Russian here:
The move comes just a day after the United States, which loudly condemned the secession vote, announced sanctions against key Russian officials, including some of Putin’s advisers. By canceling multilateral summits and levying economic sanctions, the West was hoping to isolate Putin politically and economically, putting the pressure on him to pull back from Crimea.
Tuesday’s fast decision suggests that Putin is doing all the isolating for them, and he doesn’t seem to mind. The Russian president said the West had crossed a “red line” in Ukraine, supporting the opposition and putting Russians in danger, forcing Moscow to defend its interests, The Globe and Mail‘s Mark Mackinnon reports.
“In the case of Ukraine, our Western partners have crossed a line, a red line. They’ve been unprofessional, they’re irresponsible,” he said. “They were shortsighted. They didn’t think of the consequences. Russia found itself at the stage where Russia couldn’t give up. If you press the spring too hard, it will recoil.”
If relations between Russia and the West were cooling before, they’re icing over now.