Crimea votes to join Russia: Now what?
U.S. President Barack Obama had a message for the world on Monday: Russia will not get away with this.
Tensions have been high since Russian troops seized control of Crimea two weeks ago. Crimeans voted on Sunday to merge with Russia, and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order recognizing Crimea as a sovereign state. To protest those moves, Obama signed an executive order imposing U.S. travel bans and asset freezes against seven Russian officials close to Putin.
"We'll continue to make clear to Russia that further provocations will acheive nothing except further isolate Russia and diminish its place in the world," Obama warned.
Similar sanctions were also imposed by the European Union Monday — the strongest condemnations yet from Russia's leading trade partners.
"We've decided today to introduce additional measures," said the EU's chief foreign policy representative, Catherine Ashton, "more specifically, restrictive measures against 21 individuals responsible for actions which undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine."
The streets of Simferopol, Crimea's capital, broke out into celebration on Sunday night as the referendum results came in.
More than 95 percent of Crimean voters chose to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.
No major election monitors observed the referendum, and the international community has called it illegal. Russian troops — now common in Crimea —stood outside voting centers.
Ethnic Tatars in Crimea largely did not participate in the vote. In Josef Stalin’s time, the Tatars were forced from Crimea into exile to Siberia and Central Asia.
"We were deported once, and our houses were inhabited by a foreign people," said Refat Chubarov, a Crimean Tatar leader. "The majority of the people voting right now are the children of the people who inhabited those houses."
The Crimean parliament declared Monday that all Ukrainian state property now belongs to Crimea.
Lawmakers went ahead in setting up a new central bank, using $30 million in funds given by Russia. Local politicians have asked for recognition by the United Nations.
Crimean Tatar community leader
In Kiev the new government said Ukraine is ready to deal with Russia's military presence along its eastern, southern and northern borders.
"We can mobilize 20,000 volunteers and reservists to the Ministry of Defense and another 20,000 to the national guard," said Andriy Parubiy, head of Ukraine's National Security Council.
Ukraine's foreign minister met with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to request "technical equipment" to deal with Crimea. He also asked for more monitors.
Shortly after Crimea's referendum Sunday, Russia supporters in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk stormed their local governor's and prosecutor's office.
Now all eyes are on other Ukrainian regions with large ethnic Russian populations, along Ukraine’s eastern border.
What happens now in Crimea?
Is Ukraine's eastern border under threat?
What's next in the West's and Russia's strategies?
We consulted a panel of experts for the Inside Story.
This panel was assembled for the broadcast of “Inside Story.”
For future hard-hitting conversations, find Al Jazeera America on your TV.
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