Mar 18, 2014

By Jane Brown

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Russia has signed a treaty bringing Crimea under its banner following Sunday’s referendum in the pro-Russian peninsula.  President Vladimir Putin signed the document with Crimea’s prime minister after a televised address to the nation, in which he vigorously defended Crimea’s vote as a restoration of historical justice.

Putin defended Russia’s move to annex Crimea, saying that the rights of ethnic Russians have been abused by the Ukrainian government.  He insisted that Crimea’s vote on Sunday to join Russia is in line with international law, reflecting its right for self-determination.

He pointed to the example of Kosovo’s independence bid, supported by the West.  Speaking in translation, Putin said that Crimea’s secession from Ukraine repeats Ukraine’s own secession from the Soviet Union in 1991.  “Part of their sovereignty was lost with the collapse of the USSR, including the Black Sea navy which remained in Sevastopol.  Millions of Russians, who went to sleep in one country, woke up in another country.”

Putin is ignoring world sanctions and says Crimea should be part of Russia.  He also insisted Russia does not want to move to other regions of Ukraine, saying “we don’t want division of Ukraine.”  Putin said Russia had to respond to what he described as a Western plot to take Ukraine into its sphere of influence. He said that protests that drove out Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych were encouraged by the West.

Putin denied Western accusations that Russia invaded Crimea prior to the referendum, saying Russian troops were sent there in line with a treaty with Ukraine that allows Russia to have up to 25,000 troops at its Black Sea Fleet base in Crimea.

Canada joined the U.S. and some EU nations yesterday in imposing multiple sanctions on Russia, and restricting travel for some senior individuals in Russia and Crimea.

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