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Minister: US sanctions are like mosquito bites to Crimea

April 12, 2014, 2:51 UTC+3 SIMFEROPOL

Information Minister Dmitry Polonsky said US statements made about sanctions “are insignificant because they cannot do harm to Crimea or Crimea’s leaders”

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Supreme Soviet of Crimea

Supreme Soviet of Crimea

© ITAR-TASS / Alexander Ryumin

SIMFEROPOL, April 12. /ITAR-TASS/. New US sanctions against the leaders of Crimea, a former Ukrainian region that recently joined Russia, will not be able to harm the republic, they are like “mosquito bites”, Crimean Information Minister Dmitry Polonsky said in an interview with the CrimeaInform news agency.

The US Department of the Treasury reported Friday that sanctions were imposed against seven Crimean top officials and the Crimea-based Chernomorneftegaz energy company.

Polonsky said US statements made about sanctions “are insignificant because they cannot do harm to Crimea or Crimea’s leaders”.

“We are too much nervous because this is a regular statement about sanctions against Crimean leaders in the recent days. We’ve got used to this. We are calm. Just as day follows night and night follows day, so various organizations and countries announce sanctions,” he said.

Sanctions “mean nothing for today’s Crimea and today’s Russia; small mosquito bites are unable to stop us,” Polonsky said.

New US sanctions

The US Department of the Treasury’s blacklist of people who the US nationals are banned from maintaining business contacts with and whose accounts within American jurisdiction are subject to freezes contains Crimean Security Service head Pyotr Zima, acting Sevastopol governor Alexey Chaly, adviser to the Crimean State Council speaker Yury Zherebtsov.

The list also contains Crimean State Council (parliament) deputy and chairman of the Crimean Council of Russian Compatriot Organizations Sergey Tsekov, First Deputy Prime Minister of Crimea Rustam Temirgaliyev, Crimean Central Election Commission head Mikhail Malyshev and Sevastopol Election Commission chairman Valery Medvedev.

According to the Department of the Treasury, “these individuals and this entity [Chernomorneftegaz] are being sanctioned for being responsible for or complicit in, or having engaged in, actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine”.

The United States also accused them of “actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine, or misappropriation of state assets of Ukraine or of an economically significant entity in Ukraine; or having asserted governmental authority over any part or region of Ukraine without the authorization of the Government of Ukraine”.

The US Department of the Treasury claimed that the blacklisted people hold their current positions de facto, except for Tsekov, who, the department said, “was the Vice Speaker of Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, and was responsible for facilitating the unauthorized referendum” in Crimea.

Zima, the Treasury said, “was dismissed from his duties by interim Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov for taking an oath of loyalty to the new Crimean authorities”; Washington accuses Chaly of “asserting governmental authority over any part or region of Ukraine without the authorization of the Government of Ukraine”.

The US accuses Malyshev, Medvedev, Temirgaliyev and Zherebtsov of involvement in holding “the unauthorized March 16, 2014 referendum” in Crimea and Sevastopol.

The US Department of the Treasury also claims that “on March 18, 2014 the Crimean parliament passed a resolution to seize the Crimean assets of a subsidiary of a Ukrainian state-owned gas company” and that “the assets were transferred to an entity with the same name, Chernomorneftegaz”.

Crimea's accession to Russia

The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, signed reunification deals with Russia on March 18 after a referendum two days earlier in which an overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.

The events followed a coup in Ukraine in February that occurred after months of anti-government protests, often violent. Security concerns caused President Viktor Yanukovich to leave Ukraine. Amid riots that involved radicals, new people were brought to power in Kiev.

Crimea refused to recognize the legitimacy of the new self-proclaimed Ukrainian authorities, who appear unable to restrain radicals and ultranationalists. Moscow does not recognize the new leadership in Kiev either, saying Yanukovich is the legitimate president of Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and other officials have repeatedly stated that the Crimean referendum was in full conformity with the international law and the UN Charter, and was also in line with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008. Despite that, the new Ukrainian leadership and the West claim the Crimean plebiscite was illegal and do not recognize Crimea part of Russia.

Western countries have even imposed targeted sanctions on some Russian officials following Crimea’s reunification with Russia, but Moscow has responded tit for tat. The West has threatened Russia with new economic sanctions unless Moscow changes its foreign policy.

Crimea became part of the Russian Empire in 1783, when it was conquered by Russian Empress Catherine the Great. In the Soviet Union, Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev, the first secretary of the USSR’s Communist Party, transferred it to Ukraine's jurisdiction as a gift. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Crimea became part of newly independent Ukraine and remained in that capacity until March 2014, when it joined Russia. Work to integrate the Crimean Peninsula into Russia’s economic, financial, credit, legal, state power, military conscription and infrastructure systems is actively underway now that Crimea has become part of the Russian Federation.

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