Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed bills to complete the process of annexing Crimea to Russia, and he announced that the country will open an account in a bank that the United States added to its list of blacklisted banks, news reports said.
Putin promised to protect the bank, which is partly owned by an ally of his who was blacklisted by the U.S. as a response to Russia’s role in aiding Crimea's split from Ukraine. Though Putin said he does not consider the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the EU a serious threat, the Moscow stock exchange lost $70 billion of its value this month and fell further after U.S. President Barack Obama threatened to target major sectors of the Russian economy if Russia moved on Ukraine’s areas beyond the Black Sea, Reuters reported.
“I call on all members of both houses of Parliament to actively engage in this effort and make everything possible for this process to continue painlessly and be fruitful for the whole of Russia and Crimea,” Putin said, according to Al Jazeera.
Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that Ukraine owes Russia a total of $16 billion -- plus another $11 billion for a treaty that is now “subject to denunciation,” that had Russia providing gas to Ukraine at a discounted rate in return for the Sevastopol naval base. He said that Ukraine had taken a $3 billion loan in the form of the Russian purchase of Eurobonds, in addition to an additional $2 billion that he said Ukraine owes to Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled gas company.
“The Ukrainian state saved some $11 billion dollars, and accordingly, the Russian budget has a missed profit of the same $11 billion,” Medvedev reportedly said, according to Agence France-Presse, adding: “I believe that we cannot lose such money taking into account the fact that our budget is also struggling.”
Ukraine’s acting president, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, signed the trade deal with the EU, which had been brushed off by former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and led to the Kiev protests and the widening rift between the two former allies.
“This is a historic day for my country, and we believe this is a historic day for all of Europe,” Yatsenyuk said after signing the agreement, according to Al Jazeera. "We want to be a part of a big European family."
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy also supported the deal, and he said it recognizes "the aspirations of the people of Ukraine to live in a country governed by values, by democracy and the rule of law.”