Russian President Vladimir Putin defied low-level sanctions from the West and signed a treaty on Tuesday to annex Crimea, an autonomous region in southern Ukraine with a majority population of ethnic Russians.
During a speech to both houses of parliament and government leaders, President Putin denied that Russia had recently sent additional military troops into Crimea in sharp contrast to reports from international observers and government leaders in Kiev who were authorized to approve troop movements in Crimea.
Putin said that Russian troops “were already here” in Crimea and insisted that Russia was acting within international law.
The treaty states that Russia’s recognition of Crimea as an independent state is based on “the will of the people of Crimea.”
Putin used his speech to criticize the West for hypocrisy regarding Kosovo in Serbia after the West supported Kosovo’s independence from Serbia but opposed Crimeans seeking to become annexed into the Russian Federation.
Putin also criticized NATO’S expansion into Eastern Europe.
Putin said that Russia will work to protect the rights of Russians living abroad, an indirect reference to Russians living in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk appeared conciliatory to Moscow in a Ukrainian T.V. address when he said that Kiev would not seek to join NATO and act to disarm Ukrainian nationalist militias operating in Ukraine.
President Obama criticized Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and said that the international community will work to oppose violations of Ukrainian sovereignty.
“The international community will continue to stand together to oppose any violations of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and continued Russian military intervention in Ukraine will only deepen Russia’s diplomatic isolation and exact a greater toll on the Russia economy,” Obama said.