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Like It or Not, Crimea Got Even More Russian Today

With a branch of Russia's parliament voting overwhelmingly to annex the Ukrainian peninsula, Crimea is looking pretty solidly Russian.
Photo via Getty

Crimea got another step closer to joining Russia on Thursday, as the lower house of parliament in Moscow voted overwhelmingly to annex the Ukrainian peninsula to the federation. Only one member of parliament was opposed.

The legislature's upper house is expected to complete the ratification process on Friday, capping a whirlwind week that started with a landslide referendum for secession followed by a swift, open-armed welcome by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and an even swifter retreat by Ukrainian troops.


In case there are any lingering doubts, Crimea is looking pretty solidly Russian at the moment, and Moscow has already begun issuing Russian passports to Crimean residents.

But much of the rest of the world (except for the Chinese, who are still trying to make up their mind) pretty much agrees that the referendum was illegal and that the Russian troops occupying Crimea are invaders.

On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Putin in Moscow and expressed his “serious concern” — which is diplomatic speak for “I don’t like this.”

“It is at moments like this in history that a small incident can quickly lead to a situation spiraling out of anyone’s control,” Ban said. He encouraged Russian authorities to allow international observers in Ukraine to do their job.

“The best way to address concerns for the respect of human rights is for all concerned authorities to support and welcome the United Nations human rights monitors to give us an objective assessment as to what is happening on the ground,” he said.

Representatives of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, an independent civilian monitoring body, have reported being denied access to Crimea.

“Russia effectively took hostage the entire OSCE community,” Andrii Deshchytsia, Ukraine’s acting foreign minister, said while addressing the organization’s council in Vienna on Thursday. “These Russian actions have all the signs of a deliberate tactic to undermine at all costs the efforts of OSCE community to send independent monitors to Ukraine.”


Ukraine's acting foreign minister Andrii Deshchytsia addresses the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, who has voiced some of the toughest criticism of Russia's conduct, suggested booting Russia from the G8. Russia has already been excluded from a meeting of the remaining “G7” set for next week.

"As long as there is no political climate for an important format such as the G8, as is the case at the moment, the G8 no longer exists,” Merkel told the German parliament.

The European Union has already imposed travel bans and frozen the assets of individuals connected to the annexation.

President Barack Obama on Thursday imposed a second round of sanctions on senior Russian officials, businessmen, and a Russian bank, which are regarded as having abetted the annexation of Crimea. Obama threatened to impose sanctions of greater severity, not only on individuals but also on entire sectors of the Russian economy, “if Russia continues to escalate the situation,” he said.

President Barack Obama announced a new set of sanctions against Russia on Thursday.

“These are all choices that the Russian government has made,” Obama said of Russia’s actions in Crimea. “Nations do not simply redraw borders or make decisions at the expense of their neighbors simply because they are larger or more powerful.”

But Russian officials appeared unfazed by both the stream of sanctions and the threats of more to come.

A spokesperson for Putin called the US list “unacceptable” and promised the Kremlin would match it “based on a reciprocity principle.” Moscow had already retaliated against the earlier US sanctions by slapping travel bans on ten US individuals, including House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner and Senator John McCain.

The two Republicans called themselves “proud” to be sanctioned by Putin, and McCain even joked about missing out on his “spring break in Siberia.”

I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off, Gazprom stock is lost & secret bank account in Moscow is frozen — John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain)March 20, 2014

Proud to be included on a list of those willing to stand against Putin’s aggression — Speaker John Boehner (@SpeakerBoehner)March 20, 2014