The Hindustan Times
This morning Russia and the newly declared independent Republic of Crimea (along with the city of Sevastopol) signed a treaty with Crimea to accept it as a subject of the Russian Federation on 1st January 2015.
For Russia's take on what this all means, Russia Today has some interesting coverage, including Putin's placing the blame squarely at the feet of the "neo-Nazis, nationalists and anti-Semites" who seized power in a coup on Kiev. (Not that adherence to the Ukrainian constitution and removal of Viktor Yanukovich from office by the legal method of impeachment would have made much difference, but the failure to do so certainly did give ammo to Moscow to de-legitimize the new Ukrainian government).
Amidst my musings on Twitter yesterday, I observed that the biggest threat of conflict in Crimea came from the plight of the Ukrainian military now trapped on the peninsula.
The biggest threat of conflict in UKR comes from plight of UKR soldiers trapped in Crimea. Kiev is unlikely to retreat/surrender them.— Chris Connolly (@Cripipper) March 18, 2014
2/2 Moscow unlikely to tolerate them indefinitely. Friday's expiry of truce is crunch time.— Chris Connolly (@Cripipper) March 18, 2014
As I previously observed, President Putin appears to be a reader of my blog. Once again, as if on cue, this happened:
Russia Today had a slightly different take on things, but what they are reporting is, I think, significant.
Proving Putin wrong by surrendering to the Russians will be cold comfort for Kiev, but swallowing hard and surrendering to the Russians appears to be the only choice that can avoid this crisis turning into a bloody war.
For Ukraine's sake I hope Putin is wrong and that their foresight is bigger than their pride.
Despite his protestations this morning that Russia has no further territorial claims on Ukraine, the outbreak of armed conflict would certainly give Moscow the pretext to take futher intervention in southern and eastern Ukraine, to protect the "rights of ethnic Russians that were being violated", to use Putin's phrase to describe what was happening (or not) in Crimea.
Putin has the upper hand in all this. The mistake the West (particularly Poland) in the run-up to this crisis was to forget that.