Putin: Crimea is Russian land, Sevastopol a Russian city

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Russian president approves draft agreement to officially make Crimean territory a part of Russia

Russian president approves draft agreement to officially make Crimean territory a part of Russia

ANKARA – Russian president Vladimir Putin has declared "Crimea is Russian land, Sevastopol a Russian city" following the Crimean referendum, which he said was in full accordance with international law, despite Western criticism.

Putin condemned the interim government in Ukraine in an address to the Russian parliament on Tuesday, and accused it of conducting a state coup there.

"In the case of Ukraine, our Western partners have crossed the line - they have been irresponsible,’’ Putin said. ‘’It would have been a treachery not to respond to the coup.’’

The EU and U.S. have condemned Russia for entering Ukraine’s Crimea and holding an independence referendum in which 96.7 percent of voters supported joining the Russian Federation, describing the vote as "illegitimate" and not in compliance with international law.

The government in Kiev has rejected the legitimacy of the referendum, saying it was conducted under Russian military occupation.

- 'National interests'

However, Putin denounced claims of occupation in his address, saying "no Russian troops entered Crimea." 

He said the troops were already there by agreement and their limit had been kept to 25,000 soldiers. 

‘’We need to admit one thing: Russia is an active participant in international affairs and, just like other countries, it has its national interests that you need to respect,’’ Putin said.

Remarking that Russia was not looking for more territories to annex, Putin added; "We have always respected the territorial integrity of Ukraine, unlike others who split Ukraine’’, in reference to the interim government there.

Noting that more than 90 percent of Russians support Crimea joining Russia, Putin said; "We are proposing cooperation with Ukraine.’’

- 'Illegitimate' sanctions

As Putin spoke, two news agencies, Russia's ITAR-Tass and the unian.info news website based in Kiev, reported that officials in the separatist Moldovan region of Trans-Dniester had asked Russia to consider allowing the territory to become part of the country as well.

The population of Trans-Dniester, as in Crimea, is predominantly ethnic Russian and many residents hold Russian passports and citizenship.  

However, Trans-Dniester shares no border with Russia, being separated from the larger country by a huge swathe of Ukraine, so annexing it could be problematic for Russia.

The US and the EU have called the independence referendum in Crimea on March 16 illegitimate and have imposed sanctions against at least 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials who were linked to the secession in Crimea.

The sanctions include visa bans and the freezing of assets.

‘’Western leaders’ threats inflamed internal troubles,’’ Putin said, referring to the actions.

- 'Historical issue'

He said the West believed it had unique rights to dictate and enforce ideologies.

He told lawmakers the referendum on the reunification with Crimea was a historical issue.

‘’Crimea has strong historical and current links with Russia,’’ Putin said. ‘’Crimea is a unique place of culture.’’

Putin said he wants the rehabilitation of Crimean Tatars, assuring them that Crimean Tatar and Russian Ukrainian would be government languages, and said he was grateful to China and India for their "objective view" amid strong condemnation from Western countries.

Putin said he could not imagine the Sevastopol joining NATO, adding; ‘’I do not want to be welcomed by NATO sailors."

In the UK, British Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliamentarians that it was "regrettable President Putin was choosing isolation, denying Russian and Crimean citizens partnership with the international community".

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