WATCH: Officials in Crimea are pushing ahead with a vote on whether to become a part of Russia in just nine days. It’s an enormous decision, but it appears there are few options for people to get solid facts about the situation. Some of the news media in the regions appears to have been taken over by Russia. Paul Johnson reports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin defends his decision to send his country’s soldiers to Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.Ukraine PM Yatsenyuk’s plane checked after authorities receive terrorism threat
WASHINGTON – Underlying talk about taking harsh punitive measures against Russia for its military incursion into Ukraine are economic complications and worries that sanctions levied against Moscow could backfire on the U.S. and Europe.
Heavier U.S. and European Union sanctions could sting Russia’s already slow-growing economy and hurt its financial sector. But Moscow could retaliate and seize American and other foreign assets or cut exports of natural gas to Europe, which is heavily dependent on Russia for energy.
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Declaring his determination not to let the Kremlin carve up Ukraine, President Barack Obama on Thursday slapped new visa restrictions on Russian and other opponents of Ukraine’s government in Kyiv and authorized wider financial penalties against those involved in the military intervention or in stealing state assets. Obama emphasized his resolve in an hourlong telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, affirming his contention that Russia’s actions violate Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Ukrainian government looks to oligarchs for help
In a surprising move after Russia flexed its military might in the Crimean Peninsula, Ukraine’s new leadership has reached out to oligarchs for help – appointing them as governors in eastern regions where loyalties to Moscow are strong.
With their wealth, influence and self-interest in preventing further conflict, the oligarchs could be the key to calming tensions and maintaining Ukraine’s control in areas where pro-Russian activists have stoked separatist tensions.
But the decision to appoint the country’s richest men as regional administrators has its risks. Some believe the oligarchs, who have a history of manipulating governments, may become too entrenched in their new jobs and could use their posts for personal gain.
The unexpected move drew instant ire from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who called one of the oligarchs, Ukraine’s third-richest man, Ihor Kolomoisky, a “swindler.”
“They name oligarchs, billionaires as governors of eastern regions,” Putin said during a news conference earlier this week. “Naturally, people don’t accept that.”
Putin defends Russian actions in Crimea
A defiant Russian President Vladimir Putin is defending his decision to send his country’s soldiers to Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.
In a statement on the Kremlin’s website, Putin says he could not ignore requests for protection from southern and eastern Ukraine, where many people support Russia.
He’s also dismissing the fledgling government of Ukraine, saying it grew out of what he calls an “anti-constitutional coup.”
WATCH: The American destroyer USS Truxtun passed through the Bosphorus strait Friday, en route to the Black Sea
Obama’s warnings to Russia brushed aside by Putin
Obama’s warnings to Russia are being brushed aside by Putin, who appears to only be speeding up efforts to formally stake his claim to Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.
In the week since Obama first declared there would be “costs” if Putin pressed into Crimea, Russian forces have taken control of the region and a referendum has been scheduled to decide its future. Obama declared the March 16 vote a violation of international law, but in a region where ethnic Russians are the majority, the referendum seems likely to become another barrier to White House efforts to compel Putin to pull his forces from Crimea.
WATCH: President Obama announces sanctions on Russia and other parties who are undermining Ukrainian government
“The referendum vote is going to serve for Putin, in his mind, as the credibility and legitimacy of Russia’s presence there,” said Andrew Kuchins, the director of the Russia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
If Crimea votes to join Russia, the referendum could also put Obama in the awkward position of opposing the outcome of a popular vote.
Yatsenyuk’s plane checked after authorities receive terrorism threat
Authorities say they received a threat that a terrorist attack was planned on a plane carrying Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk home after he had addressed European Union leaders in Brussels.
Austria’s Interior Ministry said Friday that after receiving a security warning from German flight controllers, SWAT teams boarded the Austrian Airlines flight after its scheduled landing in Vienna Thursday night. They found nothing out of the ordinary.
Canada won’t recognize Crimean referendum
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday Crimea is a region under “illegal military occupation” and that Canada will not recognize its forthcoming referendum on whether to join Russia.
Obama’s warnings to Russia
Obama’s warnings to Russia
Ukraine Crisis: Crimea to hold referendum
Sanctions against Russia
No breakthrough in Ukraine crisis
Russia and US discuss ways to resolve Ukraine crisis
Harper described Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an act of aggression and a clear violation both of Ukraine’s sovereignty and international law.
The prime minister says Canada continues to view the situation in Ukraine “with the gravest concern” and will co-operate with its G7 partners and like-minded allies.
©2014The Canadian Press