Russian troops surround Crimea airbase, issue ultimatum

Mass celebrations in Crimea refute Western charges of annexation – Lavrov

Those who call Crimea’s treaty with Russia “illegal” are insulting Crimean citizens and their right to decide their own fate, the Russian Foreign Minister said in a speech to the Upper House of parliament.

When foreign colleagues use the termannexationI suggest that they do one simple thing – tell their press-secretaries and press services to study the footage from Crimea in which the residents of this peninsula demonstrate their sincere joy in joining the Russian Federation,” Sergey Lavrov told the senators as he presented the bills on Crimea and Sevastopol’s accession into the Russian Federation.

This joy, this true happiness cannot be played, rehearsed or directed. When people are using terms like “annexation” in such a situation, I consider it an insult to the citizens, an insult to their right to make decisions concerning their own fate – the right that they had used in full measure,” Lavrov said in his speech.

russiasputin_small Russian troops surround Crimea airbase, issue ultimatum

On Friday the Federation Council voted to pass the bills on Crimea’s and Sevastopol’s accession into the Russian Federation officially increasing the number of Russian regions by two. Before the voting the documents were studied by the Upper House committee for defense and security and by the committee on international relations that found nothing contrary to Russian or international law.

On Thursday the bills were passed by the Lower House by an almost unanimous vote – just one MP refused to support the move.

The federation treaty was submitted to the Lower House by President Putin on Wednesday after he signed it with leading Crimean and Sevastopol officials on Tuesday. The treaty has been provisionally in operation since the signing.

The draft introduces a transitional period until January 1, 2015 during which Crimea and Sevastopol must be integrated into Russia’s economic, finance, credit and legal systems as well as into the system of state administration.

The treaty also provides that all residents of Crimea will automatically receive Russian citizenship. It also allows those who would prefer to keep their Ukrainian citizenship do so through notifying officials within one month of the treaty coming into force.

Over three quarters of the Russian public approve of President Putin’s work, according to the mid-March public opinion poll. Most respondents connected with a good handling of the Ukrainian political crisis and the help extended to the people of Crimea.

According to the VCIOM All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center, since the beginning of 2014 Vladimir Putin’s rating has risen 15 percent and stands at 75.7 percent – the highest in the last five years.

The pollsters say this is caused first of all by the complicated political situation in Ukraine and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea that was preparing to hold a referendum on joining Russia. 63 percent of respondents mentioned this as a primary reason of their support of the presidential course.Another large group – 32 percent – mentioned the victory of the Russian team at the Sochi Paralympics.

Putin’s rating in major cities was slightly lower at 71.3 percent but also reached a five-year peak.

The previous peak in Vladimir Putin’s popularity was in May 2012. 68.8 percent of Russians voiced their support for the president around the date of his inauguration.

A different poll conducted by VCIOM on March 14 and 15 showed that 91.4 percent of Russian citizens approve of Crimea becoming a part of the Russian Federation. Only 5 percent said they were against such an outcome. 86 percent of respondents claimed they already consider Crimea – home to an ethnic Russian majority – a part of Russia.

Crimea was caught in the turmoil that engulfed Ukraine after opposition leaders supported by rightist extremists ousted President Viktor Yanukovich in late February this year. On March 16 the republic held a referendum on joining Russia in which over 96 percent of voters supported such a move.

Vladimir Putin addressed the Federal Assembly on March 18 pledging full support to Crimeans and praising their decision to return to Russia after about 60 years of separation. On the same day the Russian President and Crimean leaders signed a treaty that makes the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol new parts of the Russian Federation.

After the ceremony Putin asked Russian parliamentarians to ratify the treaty as fast as possible.

The Lower House will hold a vote on ratification on Thursday and the Upper House is scheduled to vote on Friday.