Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday signed a treaty on Crimea’s accession to Russia after delivering a defiant speech defending his move and blasting the West for pursuing “containment” of Russia and flouting international law. The treaty was also signed by the Crimean leaders who attended a special joint session of the Russian Parliament in the Kremlin. Mr. Putin said he was confident the Russian Parliament would ratify the pact.
In his address at the meeting Mr. Putin called Crimea’s reunification with Russia a “historic” event of “vital importance.” He said Crimea was always an “inseparable part of Russia” and its separation after the fall of the Soviet Union was a “historical injustice.” More than 90 percent of Crimea’s residents voted in a referendum on Sunday for splitting from Ukraine and rejoining Russia. Mr. Putin called the vote a “free choice of their destiny” that was expressed fully in accordance with the right to self-determination.
He denied Western accusations that Russia had invaded Crimea, saying that Russian “reinforcements” were in line with a treaty with Ukraine that allows Russia to have up to 25,000 troops at its Black Sea Fleet base in Crimea. Mr. Putin dismissed concerns that Russia could seize other regions in Ukraine.
“Don’t believe those who try to frighten you with Russia and who scream that other regions will follow after Crimea,” he said. “We do not want a partition of Ukraine, we do not need this.” The Russian leader said the West had crossed a “red line” in Ukraine.
“In the case of Ukraine, our Western partners have crossed the line with their bullish, irresponsible and unprofessional behaviour,” he said. “Russia was pushed to a line beyond which it could not retreat. If you press the spring too hard, it will recoil.”
Describing Crimea as “strategic territory,” Mr. Putin said that Ukraine’s likely joining of NATO would have led to the deployment of NATO warships in Crimea’s Sevastopol, “the city of Russian military glory.”
“It’s unthinkable for me that we could be guests of NATO marines in Sevastopol. They may be great pals, but let them be our guests in Sevastopol, rather than the other way round,” Mr. Putin said to a thunderous applause.
The Russian leader dismissed Western criticism of Russia over Crimea as hypocrisy. “Our colleagues in the U.S. and elsewhere tell us we are violating international laws. It is good that they at least remember there are international laws. Better late than never.”
The U.S. is guided in its policies by “the right of the might,” Mr. Putin said.
“They have come to believe in their exceptionalism and their sense of being the chosen ones. That they can decide the destinies of the world, that it is only them who can be right always.”