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viernes, 7 de marzo de 2014

Kremlin Sends Strong Signs It Is Prepared to Annex Crimea

MOSCOW — Russia signaled for the first time on Friday that it was prepared to annex Crimea, significantly intensifying its confrontation with the West over the political crisis in Ukraine and threatening to undermine a system of respect for national boundaries that has helped keep the peace in Europe and elsewhere for decades. Leaders of both houses of Russia’s Parliament said that they would support a vote by Crimeans to break away from Ukraine and become a region of the Russian Federation, ignoring sanctions threats and warnings from the United States and other countries that a vote for secession would violate Ukraine’s constitution and international law. Even as tensions flared between Russian and Ukrainian forces in Crimea, the moves by Russia raised the specter of a protracted conflict over the status of Crimea, which Russian forces occupied a week ago, calling into question not only Russia’s relations with the West but also post-cold-war agreements on the sovereignty of the nations that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The developments underscored how quickly the crisis has evolved. Earlier this week, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had said he did not foresee the possibility of the Crimean Peninsula becoming part of Russia, but on Friday leaders of both houses of Russia’s Parliament welcomed a delegation from Crimea’s regional assembly and declared that they would support a vote to break away from Ukraine, now scheduled for March 16. The referendum – barely a week away – has been denounced by the fledgling national government in Kiev, which said it would invalidate the outcome and dissolve the Crimean Parliament. President Obama has also rejected the referendum, and the United States government announced sanctions on Thursday in response to Russia’s de facto military occupation of the Crimean Peninsula. Russia denounced those sanctions in a blunt rejoinder on Friday evening, posted on the Foreign Ministry website. The statement said that Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, had spoken by telephone with Secretary of State John Kerry and warned that “hasty and ill-considered steps” to impose sanctions on Russia officials “would inevitably backfire on the United States itself.” Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Kerry would meet again soon. A senior State Department official traveling with Mr. Kerry, who was flying back to Washington after a trip to Europe and the Middle East, confirmed Mr. Kerry had spoken with Mr. Lavrov but that it was unclear when they would meet again. The Russians also sent menacing economic signals to the financially stressed interim central government in Kiev, which Russia has refused to recognize. Gazprom, the Russian natural gas monopoly, which supplies Ukraine with most of its gas, warned that it might shut off supplies unless Ukraine paid $1.89 billion that it owes the company. “We cannot deliver gas for free,” Russia news agencies quoted Gazprom’s chief executive Alexei Miller as saying. Gazprom cut off gas to Ukraine for nearly two weeks in January 2009, causing severe economic problems for Ukraine and for European customers elsewhere who were dependent on supplies delivered through Ukraine. Valentina I. Matviyenko, the chairwoman of the upper house of the Russian Parliament, the Federation Council, compared the planned referendum in Crimea to one scheduled to be held in Scotland on whether to become independent from Britain. She did not mention that the national government in Britain had agreed to hold a referendum, while the Ukrainian government has not. The speaker of the Russian lower house, Sergei Y. Naryshkin, echoed Ms. Matviyenko’s remarks. “We will respect the historic choice of the people of Crimea,” he said. Continue reading the main story The remarks by the legislative leaders, both close political allies of President Putin, came a day after Crimea’s regional assembly voted behind closed doors to secede from Ukraine apply to join the Russian Federation, and to hold a referendum for voters in the region to ratify the decision. On Friday, a delegation of lawmakers from Crimea arrived in Moscow to lay the groundwork for joining Russia, winning strong endorsements from senior lawmakers. “We admire your fortitude and courage,” Ms. Matviyenko told them, according to Interfax news agency. “Many threats have been made against you; there were threats of attacks, in particular, against the Black Sea Fleet, but you endured that and protected your people.” In another telling sign of official Russian support, the Crimean delegates were cheered at a rally in central Moscow that was shown at length on Russian state television, with songs and chants of “Russia, Moscow, Crimea.” News agencies quoted the police as saying the rally was attended by 60,000 people. Even if the referendum proceeds as planned and Crimea residents approve of secession from Ukraine, it is unclear what would happen next. “Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine,” Mr. Obama said on Thursday at the White House. “In 2014, we are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders.” Read More: