In a rousing and defiant speech to a joint session of Russia’s parliament on March 18, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Ukraine’s Crimea region and the Crimean port city of Sevastapol were being incorporated into Russia, as the result of a referendum vote in Crimea on March 16.
Putin’s hour-long address was interrupted repeatedly by loud applause and standing ovations, as he lashed out at what he described as hypocrisy by the United States, NATO, and the West, and appealed to Russian patriotism. "In our hearts we know Crimea has always been an inalienable part of Russia," he said. Putin especially attacked the US/EU/NATO condemnations of the Crimean referendum, arguing that the Crimean vote for independence from Ukraine should be seen in the same light as Kosovo’s vote to secede from Serbia, which the West supported. Putin stated:
Our western partners created the Kosovo precedent with their own hands. In a situation absolutely the same as the one in Crimea they recognized Kosovo’s secession from Serbia legitimate while arguing that no permission from a country’s central authority for a unilateral declaration of independence is necessary…
That’s what they wrote, that what they trumpeted all over the world, coerced everyone into it — and now they are complaining. Why is that?
“It’s beyond double standards,” Putin said. “It’s a kind of baffling, primitive and blatant cynicism. One can’t just twist things to fit his interests, to call something white on one day and black on the next one.”
Following the address, Putin signed treaties of accession with newly installed Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov, Crimean parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantionov (and Sevastapol Mayor Alexei Chaly). News reports from Moscow, Crimea, and other parts of Russia reported crowds celebrating ecstatically over the announced annexation. In Kiev, however, the new interim government denounced the action as "fascist" and a “robbery.”
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Photo of Vladimir Putin: AP Images