Crimea has joined the Russian Federation as the Ukrainian crisis continues to be a faultline for the major powers. The outcome of a referendum in Crimea last weekend was a foregone conclusion.
With the minority Tatar population boycotting it, the majority voted to join Russia. They were confirming the existing reality with Russian troops on the ground.
David Cameron insisted there had been a “clear, predictable and firm” response from the West to Russia’s actions. The US and the European Union issued lists of Russians and Ukrainians connected with the Crimean crisis whose Western assets are to be frozen.
In reality the sanctions are not that much of a sign of strength.
Russian president Putin signed a decree recognising Crimea as a “sovereign and independent country” anyway.
The most senior government figure hit by the harshest US sanctions did not sound immensely intimidated. Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian deputy prime minister, tweeted a picture of a bear with a bottle of vodka and an AK47. The caption read, “We’re waiting for sanctions.”
After the fall of the Yanukovich government, Ukraine shifted to towards the West. As US strategic right wing think tank Stratfor described it, for Russia “intervention in Crimea was a low-risk, low-cost action”.
“It made Russia appear as a bully in the West and a victor at home. That was precisely the image it wanted to project to compensate for its defeat.”
Meanwhile the underlying moves are towards stalemate. For instance at the same time as the sanctions were imposed Russia offered talks to resolve the dispute.
But it is a far from stable stalemate. The Russia army is circling Ukraine’s borders. The Ukrainian government has called up its reservists. Nationalist demonstrations could easily escalate into violence and then be used to justify intervention.
At the same time US Congress is struggling to approve an aid package for Ukraine. This is being held up by a political clash over how much cash to give the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Even the vultures from the global banking system are worried. “We are seeing East against West, which makes it more difficult for the IMF,” said Swiss banker Zsolt Papp. “Ukraine is just the pawn here.”
Ordinary Ukrainian people gain nothing from Russian intervention or from further expansion of US and European Union influence.
A pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch with connections to senior Tories has been arrested at the request of the US.
Gas billionaire Dmitry Firtash is linked to senior Conservatives John Whittingdale, the chair of the Commons media select committee, and Lord Risby, a former vice chairman of the Conservative Party.
Both are on the board of the British Ukrainian Society (BUS), an organisation with strong ties to Firtash, who operates as Group DF. Other BUS directors include Robert Shetler-Jones, former CEO of Group DF and now a member of Group DF’s Group Supervisory Council.
Shetler-Jones donated tens of thousands of pounds to the Tories through a company called Scythian. BUS director Anthony Fisher is a former director of the Firtash Foundation.
Firtash visited the Foreign Office in London on 24 February to meet officials and appeal for financial support for Ukraine and its businesses in the wake of the recent upheaval.
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