Russian President Vladimir Putin is addressing both chambers of the Russian parliament on his plans for Crimea. On Tuesday morning he directed legislators and the government to move forward on a treaty to incorporate the Ukrainian peninsula into Russia.
By John Aglionby in London, Kathrin Hille in Moscow and FT correspondents around the world
Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be ignoring the US and EU attempts to rein in his Crimean ambitions by imposing sanctions on Russian and Ukrainian officials linked to Moscow’s incursion into the Black Sea peninsula.
As the latest FT story describes, The Kremlin said Putin had formally notified the State Duma and the Federation Council, the two chambers of parliament, and the government of proposals from the parliaments of Crimea and Sevastopol for their incorporation into the Russian Federation as new subjects.
Separately, Putin advised parliament and the government to move forward on a treaty that would formally seal the incorporation of the Black Sea peninsula.
Putin’s speech to parliament is due to start at 3pm – 11am GMT. Officials and legislators are gathering for it.
Putin is entering the room to deliver his speech
He receives his first standing ovation just with his welcome to the audience – which includes representatives from Crimea
Putin says the results of the referendum in Crimea on Sunday were “more than convincing”
From FT correspondent Courtney Weaver:
Dear Friends, we are assembled here today to look at a question that is of vital importance to all of us, Mr Putin said, immediately interrupted by applause.
We are very respectful of all ethnic groups that live in Crimea
There will be three state languages, Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar
“Crimea is a symbol of Russian war glory, of Russian traditions, language, beliefs.”
“The USSR broke up so fast that hardly anyone understood the nature of those events.
“We never thought that Russia and Ukraine could ever be not together, that they could be different countries. But it happened. Our great country was no more.”
“When Crimea found itself in a different state, Russia felt that it was robbed.”
“Russia has become one of the biggest separated states in the world”
“Today, I’d like to share with you details of the negotiations that happened in the early 2000s, with President Kuchma. There were no negotiations on the delimitations of the borders. We closed this issues, we met Ukraine half-way. We believed that we needed good relations with Ukraine, and it was the most important thing, and they shouldn’t be held hostage by these issues. But we believed that Ukraine would be a good neighbour, and that the rights of Russians would be safeguarded.”
“But many couldn’t put up with that injustice. Many said that Crimea is Russian , and Sevastopol is a Russian city. We said that we have to put up with reality, and work with Ukraine, our brother nation.”
“But events developed otherwise. There were attempts to ban the Russian language, and things suffered fro the fact that Ukraine was in constant political crisis for 20 years.”
Putin says Crimeans were handed over from one country to another “like a sack of potatoes”.
“Presidents came and went, but the country stayed the same. They used Ukraine as a cow they milked. Many Ukrainians had to flee Ukraine and work somewhere else. They didn’t go to Silicon Valley, they had to do odd jobs. 3mln Ukrainians came to Russia. In 2013, they earned $20bn, that’s 12% of Ukrainian GDP. “
“Again, I agree with the initial concerns of the people on Maidan. But they were hijacked by others, by radicals, anti-semites, who organised a coup.”
“Some Western politicians suggested to those in power in Ukraine that they must not take extreme steps. Those are wise people in the West, they understand what such a ‘pure’ state in Ukraine would mean. So that law [to repel full language rights for Russian] was set aside, but it’s still there in the reserve.”
“We couldn’t leave Crimea or Ukraine in the lurch, otherwise we would be considered traitors. First and foremost, we needed to create conditions so they could freely exercise their rights for the first time in history. So what do we hear from our colleagues in the West? They criticise us for violating international law. It’s good that they still remember the existence of international law.”
“Russian forces have never entered Crimea, except in accordance with international agreement.”
“So what did we violate? Strictly speaking, I haven’t used that right given to me by the Federal Council to send troops. Yes, we did increase our contingent, but we did not increase the total number of soldiers stationed in Crimea. That is 25,000 [under the Sevastopol base agreement].”
From FT Brussels bureau chief:
“Ukraine itself used its right to self-determination when it became independent state during breakdown of Soviet Union. How can they deny the Crimeans this right?”
Putin then starts to list other examples of independence declarations Russia argues are precedents, such as Kosovo.
He also quotes ICJ opinion, memoranda by others etc as cited earlier in Russian foreign ministry statements.
“They pressured everyone to recognise Kosovo, now they’re indignant. Why? Why can Albanians do one thing, and then the same thing would be denied to Ukrainians, Tatars in Russians in Crimea? US says Kosovo was unique case. They say there were a lot of casualties in Kosovo. Is that a legal argument? The ICJ never mentioned that.”
FT Brussels Bureau chief articulates what most people are wondering:
“You can’t call the same thing black one day and white the next day. Do we need to allow casualties to happen? We could have seen the same casualties here, had it not been for the Crimean self-defense forces. “
“There were no casualties. Why? The answer is very simple, you can’t fight the free will of the people. We have to thank those servicemen of Ukraine – there were quite a lot who didn’t fight because they didn’t want to have the blood of the people on their hands.”
“What’s happened in Ukraine reflects the situation that unfolds in the entire world. After the bipolar world broke down, our partners in the US decided to use the politics of a strong hand. They think they have been entrusted by God and put pressure on sovereign states. They pressure other states to get the votes they need, and if they can’t they ignore the security council’s resolutions. Mentions bombing of Belgrade.”
Putin then lists Afghanistan, Iraq, the ‘distortion’ of UN resolution on Libya.
“There were a series of Orange Revolutions. The people in those countries were tired of poverty, dictatorship, corruption, but those feelings were abused. The Arab Spring is now replaced by the Arab Winter.”
“The same thing happened in Ukraine. the protesters were replaced with an army of well-trained gunmen.”
“We want to work on an equitable basis, but we were deceived. The same was with Nato’s expansion to the east. We were given the same mantra: They said this is none of your business. Well you can say that, but we didn’t swallow it.”
“That is why we believe that the policies that prevailed in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries are still continuing: We’re always being cornered. “
“They knew perfectly well that there are millions of Russians in Ukraine. So why did they drop the long-sighted approach? If you press the spring too hard, it will recoil. Russia, just like any other country, has its national interests which you need to respect. “
“We appreciate the actions of those countries that have respected our decisions. Appreciate the actions of China and would like to thank their leadership. They view the situation in its historic complexity and entirety. Also India. I would like to address the people of the US. They value freedom above all else. But what about the freedom of the people of Crimea? Please understand us.
“I believe that the Europeans also understand us, especially the Germans. “
Putin reminds the Germans of the Soviet Union’s green light to German reunification.
“And I hope the Germans will support Russia’s hopes to restore unity.”
Putin addresses the people of Ukraine:
” We don’t want to hurt you. We always respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Not like those who abuse Ukraine. Don’t believe those who say that Russia will take other regions following Crimea. “
“Crimea is our common legacy, and a major factor of stability in the region, and a strategic territory, and should of course belong to a country that is stable, and that can only be Russia today.”
Long applause. Indeed, Putin is being interrupted more often now by clapping.
“Otherwise, I’d like to address Russians and Ukrainians alike: We could have lost Crimea very soon. We have heard statements from Ukraine that they want to join Nato. that would have meant Nato warships in Sevastopol, and threatened the south of Russia. That could have happened hadn’t it been for the free will of the people of Crimea. “
“We are not against Nato, but we don’t want this military alliance close to our home, our historical lands. We don’t want to go to Sevastopol and be greeted by Nato sailors.”
“I sympathise with the people of Ukraine. As i have often said, we are one nation. Kiev is the mother of Russian cities.”
“But Ukraine should be interested in defending, in observing the rights of these people [Russian speakers]. We want to have cooperation and friendship with Ukraine. We want peace and reconciliation with Ukraine, together with other countries who want to support this. But it’s up to the Ukrainians themselves.”
Putin now addresses Crimeans:
“We admire you. You decided the fate of Crimea. These were feelings of solidarity. During these days, you see the maturity of nations. During these days, Russia has shown its strong will and maturity as we stood together. The strong foreign policy of Russia is supported by the free will of millions of Russians. We need to be as strong as ever, even as we face opposition from the West. Need to decide if we stand firm, or step aside as in the past. “
Putin calls those protesting against his policies the “fifth column”
“We will take all of the steps to build good-neighbourly relations, just as it should be in the modern world. The Crimeans have spoken with a strong voice at the ballot box.”
Putin returns to the referendum:
“Any other kind of referendum would have been only temporary, and would have created more problems in the future. The Crimeans have done a straight-forward referendum and expressed their free will: They want to be with Russia.”
“Russia will have to make a very difficult decisions and consider internal and external factors. “
Putin then quotes myriad polls about how Russians support integration of Crimea into Russia
“So as we see such overwhelming consent of Russians and Crimeans to support reunification of Crimea and Sevastopol with russia, this is the bottom line.”
And gets a standing ovation!
From Courtney Weaver:
“In central Sevastopol, a rowdy crowd of several hundred residents gathered to watch Putin’s speech on the city’s main square, with Russian flags and paraphernalia, cheering whenever their local mayor or Crimea’s leaders appeared on TV.”
From Roman Olearchyk in Kiev:
“Very small crowd in downtown Kiev on Independence Square. Nothing really happening there. I don’t think they are even watching Putin’s address or aware of it. “
Back to Putin:
“Now it’s up to Russia to make a political decision, and it can only be based on free will of people”
He addresses parliament, citizens of Russia, Crimea, Sevastopol:
“Based on free will of people, the constitutional law, we will be accepting two new constituents, the Republic of Crimea, and the city of Sevastopol.”
“Also, to ratify the treaty on accepting Crimea and Sevastopol as part of Russia”.
In a few minutes, the ceremony for signing the documents will take place.
He has now finished speaking and leaves the stage
From FT correspondent Guy Chazan in Simferepol:
“We’ve been waiting for this day for 23 years,” said Konstantin Kulish, a
“self-defence volunteer who was listening to Putin’s speech on his laptop
near the Crimean parliament. “Russia is our historic homeland.”
Russian flags being were handed out at street corners
From Swedish foreign minister:
From FT correspondent JAck Farchy:
Courtney Weaver’s instant reaction:
The signing has happened:
Kathrin Hille’s instant assessment:
Vladimir Putin’s address summed up all the factors that have so surprised the west but have clearly become the main line guiding his decision-making over Ukraine: An emotional sense of pain over the loss of global power status that came with the breakdown of the Soviet Union, anger and disappointment with what he sees as Western encirclement and containment of Russia, and strong nationalism that at times reaches beyond the borders of today’s Russia.
What was astounding was in explaining how Russia sees itself under attack, he referred back not just to post-Soviet times but as far back as the 18th century, arguing that his country had been ‘cornered’ for hundreds of years.
Mr Putin’s message was clearly that Russia is not going to take this any longer, not ‘step aside’ but ‘stand firm’ – a position on which he has the vast majority of the ruling elite, if not the public, behind him, judging by the standing ovations.
If there was any reassuring message in his speech, it was the claim that Russia will not keep grabbing more territories after Crimea, and wants friendly relations with Ukraine. But after this, few outside Russia will be likely to trust him.
From FT correspondent Roman Olearchyk in Kiev:
After the completion of Mr Putin’s speech, Taras Berezovets, a Ukrainian political analyst born in Crimea, tweeted: “Today, I got a glimpse of absolute evil.”
Timothy Ash, analyst at Standard Bank said “The ball now is in the court of the west.
“Crimea seems to be lost to Ukraine given zero chances of western military intervention … The question is what the fate of the rest of Ukraine is now, and how to shape the relationship going forward between Russia and Ukraine, and the West,” Mr Ash added.
Here’s a view of the hall where Putin gave his speech:
Meanwhile US vice-president Joe Biden has arrived in Poland for talks with Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski:
More from Guy Chazan in Simferopol:
“I had a dream on Sunday that we will be part of Russia and it’s come true,” said Lyubov Oksinenko, a pensioner. “I’ve been waiting for years for this feeling of freedom and it’s finally come.”
She said: “all my roots, my family are in Russia. It is a great nation and we will win.”
“Putin is a genius,’ said Vladimir Shakhvorovtsev, a Crimean Cossack ataman or chieftain who is a member of the peninsula’s self-styled self-defence force. “He made sure there was no violence here, he protected us. And now we have joined Russia without a shot being fired.”
We’re going to wrap up the live blog now. Thanks for following. For continuing coverage, here’s our latest news story.