Russia unfazed by threats of sanctions ahead of Crimea referendum

Russian officials are already making plans for the annexation of Crimea ahead of a referendum on the issue in the southern Ukrainian peninsula on Sunday. Officials are defiant against the threat of sanctions by the United States and European Union, saying the impacts on Russia will be insignificant. Ekaterina Danilova reports.


Russian troops reportedly began amassing at the border with Ukraine yesterday. Today U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in London. After the meeting, Lavrov said that they didn’t managed to overcome disagreements regarding Crimea. He added that Russia doesn’t have plans for a military entry into the Eastern part of Ukraine.

The United States has recognized the new government in Ukraine, which took power after weeks of street protests in Kiev. The Russian government calls the new administration there illegitimate. At the same time, Western countries seem unlikely to recognize the results of the Russian-backed referendum in Crimea should voters in the strategic peninsula choose to join Russia.

The U.S. and EU are threatening economic sanctions if Russia annexes Crimea, but some Russian experts doubt serious sanctions will be applied.

Alexey Mukhin, director of the “Center of Political Information” Consulting company, says he doesn’t think there’s enough support for sanction among EU nations. “As of yet, we’re only seeing the cancellation of some trade talks between Russia anf the U.S.” said Mukhin. “There is no concrete things yet. And it’s the good news.”

Others say that even if sanctions are approved, they will likely only pose a small threat to the Russian economy.

Aza Migranyan, head of the economy department at the Institution of CIS States, says the political fallout over Ukraine is already having negative effects on the Russian stock market and currency: “We have already felt this influence on the third of March, when there was so-called ‘Black Monday’ and I assure you we will feel this next Monday.”

Even if U.S. and EU sanction are applied, Migranyan cites Iran as an example of how countries can circumvent the worst effects of sanctions.

International observers have already arrived in Ukraine in preparation for Sunday’s referendum.

On Saturday, anti-war rallies are planned in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

EU ministers will meet in Brussels on Monday, where they are expected to weigh the possibilities of introducing an embargo on the export of weapons to Russia, freezing Russian officials’ bank accounts abroad and prohibiting their entry to EU states.

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