Crimea lawmakers adopted a new pro-Russian constitution on Friday, despite the Muslim Tatar minority’s objection, Pravda News reports. The region of Crimea, which transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1954, is now a step closer to rejoining Mother Russia, Reuters reports. The Crimea Constitution was approved by all 88 deputies present, afterwards, the deputies broke into applause and stood while the Russian national anthem played. “Step by step we have led Crimeans to realize their dream of returning home to Russia,” speaker Vladimir Konstantinov declared.
Russia welcomed Crimea “home” legislatively in a symbolic move. The Russian Constitution was also updated Friday. It now lists Crimea and its port city of Sevastopol as “subjects of the Russian Federation” and the update was posted on an official state website. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation annexing Crimea last month, but the move was dismissed as illegitimate by Ukraine and much of the Western world, according to Reuters. The Crimean legislation notes that Crimea will be fully integrated into Russia by the start of 2015.
The financial system in Crimea is a mess as Ukrainian and Western banks leave the region, moves which began earlier last month, when Russia announced the annexation of Crimea. Crimea has been dealing with a primarily cash economy since the annexation. Three Russian banks have moved in to fill the banking void, according to BDLive. Russian leaders have reportedly been alarmed that Visa and MasterCard have stopped providing banking services for all banks that have been included on the US blacklist, says the ITAR-TASS News Agency.
Meanwhile, new US sanctions put against the leaders of Crimea were called “mosquito bites” by Crimean Information Minister Dmitry Polonsky:
“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,” the Crimean Minister said. Sanctions “mean nothing for today’s Crimea and today’s Russia; small mosquito bites are unable to stop us.”
Lt. Gen. Alexander Mikhailov, of the Russian Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, admitted last month to a Russian news source translated into English that propaganda is being presented on both sides of the issue in the Ukrainian region:
“Unfortunately, we see that the escalation of tension continues. The basis for any coups is, of course, information warfare that is ongoing on all fronts. There is a huge amount of misinformation, substitution of concepts. This is psychological warfare whose goal has always been to demoralize the enemy and uplift the morale of the army.”
Russia claims that NATO is assembling an aggressive battle fleet in response to the moves in the region and cites the entry of the powerful destroyer equipped with the Aegis missile defense system, the USS Donald Cook, into the Black Sea as evidence. The US Defense Department clarified that the ship’s mission was merely to reassure the nation’s Black Sea partners and allies following the tumultuous events in Crimea and the rest of the region.
Not everyone in Crimea is rejoicing over the newly adopted pro-Russian constitution, according to The World Post. The Muslim Tatar minority, who constitute 15 percent of Crimea’s population, oppose what they consider a take-over of the region by Russia. “The hastily compiled text of the draft constitution was given to deputies only hours before the vote,” the Crimean Tatar assembly said in a statement that opposed the pro-Russian document, declaring it “unacceptable.”
[Photo of “Mother Russia” by Christiaan Triebert]