Saturday

25th Feb 2017

Putin redraws map of Europe

Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Tuesday (18 March) signed a treaty annexing the Ukrainian region of Crimea, shortly before the Russia-Ukraine confrontation claimed its first casualty.

He justified the step in a long speech to MPs which described the Black Sea peninsula - given by the USSR to Ukraine in 1954 - as quintessentially Russian in cultural and historical terms.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Putin with Crimean separatist leaders in Moscow on Tuesday (Photo: kremlin.ru)

He said Ukraine is now run by “neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, and Russophobes.”

He also framed the crisis in a geopolitical context, accusing Western powers of trying to stop him from creating a Eurasian Union by orchestrating “controlled” revolutions.

“We understand what is happening, that these actions were directed against Russia and against integration in Eurasia … But everything has its limits. And in the case of Ukraine, our Western partners crossed the line, they were rude, irresponsible.”

With Russia’s ratification of the Crimea treaty to be completed in the next few days, the annexation looks like a fait accompli.

But there are fears Putin will go further.

He noted in his speech that ethnic Russians in the Ukrainian cities of Donetsk, Kharkiv, and Kiev are “still” appealing for his help and he described Kiev as the “mother of all Russian cities," adding: "Ancient Rus is our common source and we cannot live without each other.”

He has amassed military forces on Ukraine's north and eastern borders.

If he is going to absorb Crimea, he will also need to take control of the electricity and water infrastructure which feeds it and which is located on the Ukrainian mainland.

Shortly after Putin stopped talking, the Ukrainian PM, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, accused Russian forces of shooting dead a Ukrainian officer at a base in the Crimean capital of Simferopol.

He called for a meeting with UK and US defence chiefs and said the crisis has entered a “military stage.”

For his part, Ukraine’s former president, Viktor Yushchenko, told EUobserver in an interview in Brussels the same day: “He [Putin] is a maniac who is obsessed with the idea of recreating the Soviet Union and, sadly, he is not the only one like this in the Russian political establishment.”

The former commander-in-chief praised the Ukrainian army's restraint, but said that if it comes to war, then Russia has “underestimated” its opponent.

“Our army is technologically advanced, very professional, and highly educated. We have the same types of weapons the Russians have … and a very strong spirit."

EU countries and the US also reacted to Tuesday’s developments with strong words.

US vice-president Joe Biden, while visiting Warsaw, said the US will impose extra sanctions on top of its earlier blacklist of Russian officials and MPs: “Russia is alone. It’s clear that Russia’s economic isolation will increase if it stays on this path."

British foreign minister William Hague tweeted: “preparatory work now underway for a third tier of [EU] sanctions, including economic & trade measures.”

EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso also said EU leaders at a summit on Thursday will “agree on a united European response.”

Meanwhile, a European Parliament committee named 32 Russians who it says should be on an EU blacklist for their role in murdering a Russian anti-corruption campaigner, Sergei Magnitsky.

With MEPs voting 53 to one in favour, the move, albeit symbolic, indicates the mood in the EU capital.

Punitive measures aside, Yushchenko added that the “biggest sanction” the EU and US could impose on Putin would be economic and political support for Ukraine.

He listed a clear EU and Nato membership perspective and EU visa-free travel as the most important elements.

He also warned the West that all may not be as it seems in Ukraine.

Reports in some Russian media say that Yushchenko's old rival, former PM Yulia Tymoshenko, cut a deal with Putin - to give him Crimea in return for helping her to regain power.

She told EUobserver earlier this month it is "anti-Ukrainian propaganda."

But Yushchenko said it is “quite strange” that Ukraine's Tymoshenko-dominated government has done nothing to secure the Crimean electricity and water infrastructure on the mainland. He said it is equally strange Ukraine did not close its border with Russia to stop Russian agitators from going to Donetsk and Kharkiv.

“I belong to this group of people [who believe there is a Putin-Tymoshenko deal],” Yushchenko said.

“This is one of the biggest mysteries for Europeans … The line of relations between these two people have been significantly underestimated and Europe risks falling into their traps,” he added.

Khodorkovsky: Putin fears Ukraine 'revolution'

Russian oligarch-turned-dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky has said the Kremlin “fears” the Ukrainian revolution, but warned Ukraine not to expect too much help from the West.

Feature

Armenia-Azerbaijan war: Line of contact

“Frontline coffee is the best coffee in the world”, an Armenian lieutenant told EUobserver, with soldiers' morale among their strongest weapons in the war against an oil-rich foe.

News in Brief

  1. Spanish court jails former IMF chief Rato
  2. Macron proposes Nordic-style economic model for France
  3. Germany posts record high budget surplus
  4. Labour ousts Ukip in Brexit homeland
  5. Dutch lower house approves EU-Ukraine treaty
  6. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  7. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  8. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EURORDISJoin the Rare Disease Day and Help to Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  3. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  4. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  5. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  6. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  7. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  9. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  10. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  2. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  3. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe
  4. Salzburg Global SeminarToward a Shared Culture of Health: Charting the Patient-Clinician Relationship
  5. European Free AllianceAustria Should Preserve & Promote Bilingual and Multinational Carinthia
  6. Martens CentreShow Your Love for Democracy! Take Part in Our Contest: "If It's Broken, Let's Fix It"
  7. CISPECloud Computing Leaders Establish Data Protection Standards to Protect Customer Data
  8. Malta EU 2017Landmark Deal Reached With European Parliament on Portability of Online Content
  9. Belgrade Security ForumBSF 2017: Building a Common Future in the Age of Uncertainty
  10. CESIEU Not to Revise the Working Time Directive
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAzerbaijan: 76 NGOs Urge the EU to Use President's Visit to Insist on Human Rights Reforms
  12. UNICEFDeadliest Winter for Migrant Children Crossing the Central Mediterranean