Ukraine signed an Association Agreement with the E.U. on Friday, the same agreement that former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign in November, triggering the mass protests that led to the current situation. The agreement establishes “an all-embracing framework to conduct bilateral relations” between Ukraine and E.U. member states. E.U. President Martin Schulz said it’s still far too early to discuss Ukraine’s potential accession to the E.U.
Putin ratified the Russian parliament’s treaty to annex Crimea and Sevastopol on Friday morning in the presence of parliament leaders in the Kremlin’s elaborate Catherine Hall. “I want to congratulate you, citizens of the Russian Federation and the inhabitants of the Crimea and Sevastopol on this momentous event,” Putin said before signing the treaty. He also appointed an ambassador to represent the Kremlin in the “Crimean Federal District.” There were celebratory fireworks in Moscow, Simferopol, and Sevastopol today.
Ukraine’s “truce” with Russia expired today, so Ukrainian forces are starting to vacate military bases in Crimea. The occupying forces in the peninsula are now easily identifiable as Russian soldiers, Reuters reports. "72 military units and institutions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, including six warships and 25 auxiliary ships of the Ukrainian Navy, raised the flag of the Russian Federation," FIPRA Ukraine announced.
Nine activists and military officers are still missing in Crimea.
The Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office has identified several of the snipers who fired upon protesters on the Maidan. So far, all of them are Ukrainian citizens, the Kyiv Post reports.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Putin in Moscow Thursday, and asked the Russian president to pursue talks with Kiev. “I told President Putin that I understand his legitimate concerns related to the situation of the Russian minority in Ukraine. I have said from the beginning of this crisis that it is critical that the human rights of all people in Ukraine, especially minorities, must be respected and protected,” Mr. Ban Ki-Moon said. On Friday, he flew to Kiev to meet with Ukrainian leaders.
— Maxim Eristavi (@MaximEristavi) March 21, 2014
#Awkward Ban Ki-moon says he respects Ukraine moving to make Russian 2nd official language. Turchynov cuts him off. 'We have 1 language.'— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) March 21, 2014
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is demanding that Ukraine repay the $11 billion of gas discounts that Russia agreed to give Ukraine in 2010.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Finance will soon issue war bonds to help fund Ukrainian armed forces.
Ukrainian national gas company Naftogaz is being investigated for corruption, with damages possibly amounting to $4 billion.
Visa and Mastercard have halted all transactions for clients of Bank Rossiya, which the U.S. Treasury sanctioned on Thursday. Russian banks are already feeling the chill, and Russia promised to respond to yesterday’s expanded U.S. sanctions.
S&P downgraded Russia’s long-term foreign currency rating.
Russians protested the sanctions in Moscow:
— Andrew Roth (@ARothNYT) March 21, 2014
The Russian State Duma has introduced a bill that hopes to avoid the impact U.S. sanctions will have on the Russian banking system by demanding that all payment transfer centers be located within the Russian Federation.
The E.U. imposed travel and economic sanctions on 12 Russian and Ukrainian citizens, many of whom the U.S. also sanctioned earlier this week.
The Crimean Tatar Mejlis, the governing body of the Crimean Tatars, has asked that 250 to 300 international observers be present in “all settlements” on the peninsula on an “ongoing basis.”
St. Petersburg activists have applied for a referendum on secession from Russia, Radio Svoboda reports.