Crimea is officially a member of the Russia Federation.
On Friday, President Vladimir Putin signed all the bills to complete the annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine. According to the Associated Press, he said it was a “remarkable event.”
— Shaun Walker (@shaunwalker7) March 21, 2014
The whole process took less than a month. Ukraine’s Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted on February 22 after three months of intense protests in Kiev’s Independence Square. Crimea is home to over 58% ethnic Russians and the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The peninsula pledged allegiance to Russia, kicked out their Kiev-appointed officials and elected pro-Russians. Sergei Aksyonov was promoted to acting prime minister, and he constantly asked Putin for more help and military.
On March 16, over 90% of Crimeans voted to leave Ukraine and join Russia. Despite the numerous voting violations spotted, Moscow recognized the vote and moved quickly to absorb Crimea. The next day, Putin signed the decree that officially acknowledged Crimea’s independence and claimed the peninsula as Russian territory. The bills easily passed through parliament on Wednesday and Thursday.
The West and Ukraine never recognized the vote. President Obama and the European Union imposed sanctions on Russians and Ukrainians on Monday, but the move was viewed as so weak by Moscow that the Russian deputy prime minister laughed at Obama on Twitter. Obama finally realized the severity of the situation, listened to experts, and imposed harsh sanctions against the rich oligarchs in Putin’s inner circle and Putin’s bank in St. Petersburg.