Putin recognizes Crimea as independent,firmly challenging the West

By: Corina Boehme

In Kiev Ukraine the toughest sanction against Moscow since the end of the Cold War, according to The Vancouver  Sun  Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula as an “independent and sovereign country.”  On Monday a challenge to Washington escalates one of Europe’s worst security crises in years.

The brief decree posted on the Kremlin’s website came hours after the United States and the European Union announced asset freezes and other sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian officials that were involved in the Crimean crisis.  President Barack Obama warned that more would come if Russia didn’t stop interfering.

Crimea had been part of Russia since the 18th century, until Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev transferred it to Ukraine in 1954 and both Russians and Crimea’s majority ethnic Russian population see annexation as correcting a historic insult.

Ukraine’s turmoil- which began in November with a wave of protests against President Viktor Yanukovych and accelerated after he fled to Russia in late February-has become Europe’s most severe security crisis in years.

Russia, characterizes his ouster as a croup, and alleges the new authorities are fascist-minded and likely to crack down on Ukraine’s ethnic Russian population.  Pro- Russia demonstrations have broken out in several cities in eastern Ukraine near the Russian border, where Kremlins have been massing troops.

The EU’s foreign ministers slapped travel bans and asset freezes against 21 officials from Russia and Ukraine.  “We need to show solidarity with Ukraine, and therefore Russia leaves us no choice,” Polish Foreign Minister Rdoslaw Sikorski told reporters in Brussels.

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