Crimea an ‘inseparable’ part of Russia, Putin tells parliament
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President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Crimea "was, and is, an inseparable part of Russia" in the hearts of his countrymen, as he addressed parliament and signed a treaty making Crimea part of Russia.
“The (Crimean) issue has a vital importance, a historic importance for all of us,” Putin said in an address in the Kremlin to a joint session of parliament, members of his government, business leaders and Crimean leaders.
“In the hearts and minds of people, Crimea has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia. This commitment, based on truth and justice, was firm, was passed from generation to generation,” he said in a speech that lasted 47 minutes.
He depicted the Black Sea peninsula as a holy place for Russia and accused the West, which has imposed sanctions on some Russians and Ukrainians, of crossing a red line.
But he dismissed concerns that Russia would try to seize other regions in Ukraine, prompting Russian shares to rise and the rouble to trim its losses on the day.
“Don’t believe those who try to frighten you with Russia and who scream that other regions will follow after Crimea,” Putin said. “We do not want a partition of Ukraine, we do not need this.”
West does not follow international law
But he added, “Our Western partners, headed by the United States, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun.”
“They have come to believe in their exceptionalism and their sense of being the chosen ones. That they can decide the destinies of the world, that it is only them who can be right.”
Putin signed a decree recognising Crimea as an independent state on Monday, one day after it voted overwhelmingly for union with Russia in a referendum which the West said was illegitimate.
He launched a fierce attack on the new leadership in Kiev which ousted Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich on Feb. 22, saying they had opened the door to “neo-Nazis”.
“Those who were behind recent events, they were ... preparing a coup d’etat, another one. They were planning to seize power, stopping at nothing. Terror, murder, pogroms were used,” he said, calling them “nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites”.
“It is primarily they who are deciding how Ukraine lives today. The so-called Ukrainian authorities introduced a scandalous law on the revision of the language policy, which directly violated the rights of the national minorities.”
The West reacts
A communiqué from the French president immediately “condemned” the signing of the treaty between Crimea and Russia, and reiterated that France does not recognise the results of the March 16 referendum in Crimea.
Speaking at a news conference in Warsaw, US Vice President Joe Biden also reacted strongly, calling Russia’s intervention in Crimea a “land grab” and underscored Washington’s commitment to defend the security of its NATO allies on Russia’s borders.
Biden also issued what many interpreted to be a veiled threat to Moscow, stating that the US stands by its commitment to complete a missile defence system in Poland by 2018. Russia claims the system is intended to counter its own missiles, but the US has insisted it is aimed at stopping missiles from Iran and North Korea.
Biden added that Russia will face additional measures from both the EU and the US if it goes ahead with its plan to make Crimea part of its territory.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP)