Monday, 17 March 2014

Ukraine: Sanctions Target Putin Aides

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is among those hit by travel bans and asset freezes as Western powers hit back over Crimea's refendum.

Several top advisers to Russia's President Putin are also named on the US list, which targets 11 officials from Ukraine and Russia.

Others named include Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation, and Sergey Aksyonov, prime minister of Crimea's regional government.

The EU measure targets 21 people whose names are expected to be revealed later. The two lists are thought to overlap and target many of the same people.

Crimea celebrations Thousands turned out in Simferopol and Sevastopol to celebrate the vote

President Obama described the measures as an "initial step".

He said they targeted Russian officials and those “operating in the arms sector in Russia and individuals who provide material support to senior officials of the Russian government.

"If Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine we stand ready to impose further sanctions," said President Obama.

Ukraine, Russia and Crimea

Almost 97% of voters in Crimea said they wanted to break away from Ukraine and join Russia but the referendum has been widely criticised as being illegal and a "sham".

Ukraine's parliament has approved a partial mobilisation of troops in the wake of the vote.

It said 20,000 reserve troops were being called up, plus 20,000 more from the newly-formed National Guard.

Ukraine crisis The Ukraine crisis has led to a Cold War-style stand-off

Crimea's regional assembly has already formally applied to join Russia and announced the nationalisation of all Ukrainian state property, including the disbanding of military bases.

"The republic of Crimea appeals to the United Nations and to all countries of the world to recognise it as an independent state," read a document by the Crimean assembly on Monday.

Ukraine opposition leader Vitali Klitschko claimed the country stands on the verge of a humanitarian crisis, with the danger of ethnic cleansing of Crimea's Tatar minority.

There is also "concrete evidence" that some voting papers were "pre-marked", a senior US official told the Reuters news agency.

As ministers met in Brussels to hammer out the sanctions, Foreign Secretary William Hague warned of "long term costs and consequences for Russia".

People celebrate as they wait for the announcement of preliminary results of today's referendum on Lenin Square in the Crimean capital of Simferopol Lenin Square was full of patriotism towards Russia

Russia's President Putin insists the vote is legal and is set to speak on the issue at the Russian parliament on Tuesday.

Crimea wasted no time following the landslide vote - officials are expected to fly to Moscow on Monday and the rouble has been introduced as a second official currency.

It also wants Ukrainian military outposts in the region disbanded, but the Kiev government said they are staying put.

"Those (troops) who want to live here? No problem. Those who want to swear allegiance we will examine," said Crimea's assembly chief Volodymyr Konstantynov.

Sky News' Nick Martin, at an army base near Crimean capital Simferopol, said it was a tense time for the solders and their families.

- The vote has been condemned as illegal by many governments in the West

"There are many Ukrainian soldiers inside, pretty much surrounded by Russian soldiers - no one really knows how this will work."

He said many practical questions also hung over Crimea, such as the payment of salaries and social security, and the supply of gas and electricity.

But, for the crowds who turned out in Simferopol on Sunday night, such questions were for another day.

Thousands of people waving Russian flags filled Lenin Square as patriotic songs boomed out and fireworks lit up the sky.

Lucia Prokorovna, 60, carrying a giant Russian flag said: "We're free of the occupation. Ukraine was attached to Crimea like a sack of potatoes."

The intervention of Russian forces in Crimea followed the ousting of Kremlin ally Viktor Yanukovych last month.

The president fled the Ukrainian capital Kiev after days of anti-government clashes that left scores of police and protesters dead.

Moscow justified the occupation of Crimea, saying it wanted to protect the majority ethnic Russian population.

The referendum also came against a backdrop of unrest in the divided eastern Ukraine, which has seen pro-Russian demonstrations turn violent.

Kiev has accused "Kremlin agents" of trying to stoke violence in other cities, such as Donetsk.

Sky News' Michelle Clifford, in Kiev, said there is a real fear in the country that Russia could now move its troops further into Ukraine.

The government has urged people not to be provoked into retaliating because clashes could be used by Moscow as an excuse for further interventions.

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