Crimea ‘more important to Russia than Falklands are to UK’
Russia remains defiant on Crimea annexation, but says there are no plans to invade Ukraine
CRIMEA is “immeasurably more important to Russia than the Falklands are to the UK”, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has said, following talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry in London yesterday.
Noting a clash in the eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk between pro- and anti-Russian activists yesterday in which one person was killed, Lavrov said Russia reserves the right to intervene to protect its citizens. However, he added: “The Russian government has no plans for military intrusion into eastern Ukraine.”
The meeting between Kerry and Lavrov was supposed to defuse the crisis in the Ukraine, which has been inflamed further by Sunday’s referendum in the autonomous region of Crimea. Lavrov said Russia would respect the result of the referendum, although as the Daily Telegraph notes, the only two choices are joining the Russian Federation immediately or empowering the Crimean parliament to decide to join Russia later.
Kerry, for his part, recognised Russia has “legitimate interests” in Ukraine, but expressed concern at the large build-up of Russian military forces at the Ukrainian border and in Crimea. He said: “There will be consequences of Russia does not find any way to change course.”
Those consequences are becoming clearer, and they will begin on Monday with visa bans and asset freezes targeting individuals. Reuters reports that the EU has a list of up to 130 Russians who could be targeted for sanctions. German newspaper Bild said that Alexei Miller, boss gas giant Gazprom, and Igor Sechin, head of Russia's biggest oil firm, Rosneft, would be among those targeted, along with senior ministers and Kremlin aides. However, EU diplomats poured cold water on the Bild story, saying no decisions had yet been made.