The West should either recognize the results of Crimea’s referendum on reunification with Russia or stop imposing sanctions against people living in Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his traditional annual news conference on Thursday, TASS reported.
In his words, "it is a curious situation" as Russia is being accused of Crimea’s annexation or of taking Crimea by force. "But if it was annexation and forcible takeover, then people living in Crimea have nothing to do with that," he noted. "And if it was their choice in voting, then it was not annexation whatsoever."
The president recalled that people living in Crimea have to face restrictions on the activities of insurance companies, the use of maritime and other infrastructure, financial operations, they are denied entry visas, etc.
"In other words, it concerns practically all people who live in this territory. As a matter of fact, sanctions have been imposed not only on the authorities of the Crimean Republic and Sevastopol, but on everyone. If they have nothing to do with that, if it was annexation then why do they have to face the sanctions? And if the sanctions have been imposed because of concrete voting, it means that it is time to recognize that it did take place. That’s the point," he stressed.
The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of authorities brought to power amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February 2014.
Crimea and Sevastopol adopted declarations of independence on March 11, 2014. They held a referendum on March 16, 2014, in which 96.77% of Crimeans and 95.6% of Sevastopol voters chose to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the reunification treaties on March 18, 2014. The documents were ratified by Russia’s Federal Assembly, or bicameral parliament, on March 21.
Despite the absolutely convincing results of the referendum, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union have been refusing to recognize Crimea as a part of Russia.