We have no intention of invading other regions of Ukraine - Putin said - a state born of an illegal secession from the Soviet Union. What happened in Kiev in recent months and which prompted President Viktor Yanukovych to flee to Russia is the work of the West with the sole aim of weakening us. The new Ukrainian government is illegitimate, led by radicals, nationalists, neo-Nazis, russophobes and anti-Semites.
Putin then went on to accuse the West, guilty in his judgment of ignoring Russian interests after the collapse of the Soviet bloc.
Our Western partners led by the United States - Putin said - prefer not to be guided by international law. They believe they are guiding the fate of the world, putting us aside, even considering their language as universal, but there are limits. And in the case of Ukraine, those limits have been exceeded by our Western partners. Our troops have been sent to Crimea in accordance with an agreement signed with Ukraine which allows Russia to have up to 25 troops in our base in Sevastopol. Western sanctions do not scare Moscow, which could soon have the support of its long-time allies: China and India. We will protect the rights of the Crimean Tatars - concluded Putin - and we will keep their language like the other official languages of the region, in addition to Russian and Ukrainian. We are not against cooperation with NATO, but we oppose a military alliance. The NATO folks are good guys - they can come and visit us in Sevastopol.
After the speech, Putin and the representatives of Crimea signed the treaty to ratify the annexation of the region to Russia. The treaty will have to be approved by Russia's Constitutional Court and ratified by both houses of parliament, but the procedure could be completed by the end of the week. Putin, once countersigned the document, briefly repeated the same speech before the 120 Russians who reached Red Square.
The White House and the European Union have already announced sanctions against separatist leaders in Crimea, modeling the restrictive measures on the people who have determined the current context in Ukraine. Brussels has commissioned sanctions for 21 people (13 Russians and 8 Crimean Ukrainians) "because they are held responsible for actions that have undermined the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine". To date, Canada, France and the United Kingdom have suspended military cooperation with Moscow.
The White House categorically excluded military intervention. The official note comes after the Kiev government's demands advanced a few hours ago for military support.
Moscow in the meantime, in the next few hours could annex up to 20 ships of the Ukrainian navy that could become part of the Black Sea Fleet. The Ukrainian navy includes about 40 ships, 20 of which are currently moored at the naval bases in Sevastopol Crimea and at the lake of Donyzlav. According to the Ria Novosti, Ukrainian ships that could be taken over by Russia include two corvettes, a command ship, several missile cruisers, minesweepers and the only Ukrainian submarine, the Zaporizhia, a "Foxtrot" class diesel-electric boat.