Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared Crimea reunited with Russia. He and Crimean leaders have signed a treaty of accession, which they consider effective immediately. Putin stressed the peninsula on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast was historically special for Russia. He said Russia does not intend to absorb other parts of Ukraine.
He highlighted Crimea’s Tatar historic Muslim minority, saying they had come back to their territory, and said all legislative and political decisions had to be taken to “bring to fruition the rehabilitation of the Tatars of Crimea.”
The three-quarter-of-an-hour speech to an audience including members of both houses of parliament was delivered in St. George’s Hall in Moscow’s Grand Kremlin Palace. Framed with patriotic fervor, it doled out praise and rebuke.
“Where Ukraine is concerned, our Western partners crossed a red line,” Putin said. “They behaved cruelly, without responsibility, without professionalism.”
In contrast he added: “We are grateful to the people of China, where the government saw—and sees—the situation of Crimea and of Ukraine in all its historic and political integrity.”
Putin made many references to the not-so-distant past and to more recent events: the separation of Ukraine from Russia in 1954, the break-up of the Soviet Union, and Germany reknitting itself in 1990.
“I believe the Europeans will understand me, and the Germans first of all. I would remind you that, during the political consultations held on the reunification of the two Germanies, the representatives of some of Germany’s allies did not support the same idea of that reunification, while, in contrast, our country did support the sincere and unlimited desire of the Germans for national reunification.”
Putin again accused the new authorities in Kyiv of having opened the door to neo-Nazis. Yet, at the same time, the Russian president sought to reassure investors and the Ukrainian people about his intentions towards their country.
“Don’t believe all those voices that tell you to be afraid of Russia, who cry that after Crimea other regions will go. We don’t want Ukraine to split up. We don’t need that. Where Crimea is concerned, she was and remains Russian, Ukrainian and Tatar.”
The Russian leader said that Crimea’s vote on Sunday to join Russia legitimately reflected the region’s right for self-determination.
Russia’s Constitutional Court and Parliament were expected to endorse the treaty swiftly.