Lawmakers in Crimea Move Swiftly to Split From Ukraine

March 17th, 2014 by Staff

( LONDON — Legislators in Crimea moved swiftly Monday to begin the process of splitting from Ukraine, with the regional Parliament declaring that Crimea is an independent state, with special status for the city of Sevastopol. They asserted that the laws of Ukraine no longer applied to Crimea and that state funds and all other state property of Ukraine in Crimea had been transferred to the new state. They also announced that the Ukrainian authorities had no power in Crimea.

The Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea has been renamed as the State Council of the Republic of Crimea and legislators formally appealed to Russia to accept Crimea as part of the Russian Federation.

As the Crimeans moved toward formal secession from Ukraine, the Parliament in the capital, Kiev, approved a presidential decree authorizing the call-up of 20,000 reservists to the armed forces and a further 20,000 to a newly formed national guard.

In Moscow, the referendum — in which 96.77 percent of voters supported breaking with Ukraine and joining the Russian Federation — was greeted on Monday as a triumph, and lawmakers promised to move quickly to adopt legislation to absorb Crimea into the Russian Federation. “Crimea returns to Russia!” a headline in Komsomolskaya Pravda said, while Nezavisimaya Gazeta declared that “Kiev lost Crimea.”

A member of Parliament announced that President Vladimir V. Putin would deliver an address to lawmakers on the situation in Crimea on Tuesday. Mr. Putin told President Obama on Sunday that the vote was legal and cited the independence of Kosovo — which Russia has not recognized — as the precedent for Crimea’s secession, the Kremlin said in a statement.

“The referendum was organized in such a way as to guarantee Crimea’s population the possibility to freely express their will and exercise their right to self-determination,” the Kremlin’s statement on the latest of a series of conversations between the two leaders said.

Mr. Putin also continued to raise the issue of violence and protests in other parts of Ukraine, which have stoked fears that Russia could move forces beyond Crimea. He told Mr. Obama that “the current authorities in Kiev have so far failed to demonstrate the ability and desire to rein in the ultranationalist and radical groups that are destabilizing the situation in the country and terrorizing ordinary people, including the Russian-speaking population and Russia’s compatriots,” according to the Kremlin’s statement.

Crimea’s new prime minister, Sergei Aksyonov, told Russian state television that a delegation from the region would arrive in Moscow to begin discussions on the process of annexation. The deputy speaker of Russia’s lower house of Parliament, Sergei Neverov, said that Russian lawmakers would act shortly.

“The high voter turnout and the vast support for Crimea’s accession to Russia speak for themselves,” he said, Interfax reported.

In Brussels, foreign ministers of the European Union met on Monday to weigh a first response to Moscow’s unfolding strategy in Ukraine, including possible economic sanctions.

But the European leaders made clear that they were not considering a military response. “We are not looking at military options here, this is not about a Crimean war,” Foreign Secretary William Hague of Britain said in a radio interview.

One of the ministers attending the European Union meeting in Brussels, Sebastian Kurz of Austria, gave a strong indication that the punitive European measures under debate would not reach initially into the highest echelons of Russia’s powerful energy companies, which are close to the Kremlin.

In a radio interview, Mr. Kurz said Sunday’s ballot in Ukraine would trigger an array of measures including visa bans and the freezing of assets held by political and military figures who orchestrated Russia’s intervention in Crimea, Reuters reported.

Asked whether the list would include the heads of the energy giants Gazprom and Rosneft, as reported on Friday in Germany, Mr. Kurz replied: “This is not expected at this time.”

He added: “I think picking business bosses indiscriminately would be a wrong step.”

The foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, he said, would negotiate a list of people to be subjected to the measures, he said. The ministers have been reported to be trying to reduce a tally of up to 130 names to a smaller number.

In Brussels, Mr. Hague said Moscow must face “economic and political consequences” for its military and political maneuvers in Crimea. European leaders have already agreed that the measures should be designed to escalate pressure on the Kremlin depending on its future moves.

As he arrived in the Belgian capital on Sunday, Mr. Hague called the Crimea referendum “a mockery of proper democratic practice.”

Reflecting concerns that the Kremlin will continue its campaign to detach Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine, Mr. Hague described disturbances in the east of the country as “provocative actions.”

“Any attempt by the Russian Federation to use the referendum as an excuse to annex the Crimea, or to take further action on Ukrainian territory, would be unacceptable,” Mr. Hague said.

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