Putin Signs Treaty to Annex Crimea; Russia's Deputy PM Laughs at Obama's Sanctions

(Photo: Reuters)Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed on Tuesday a treaty making Crimea part of Russia. The move comes after his deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, dismissed U.S. sanctions meant to freeze the financial assets of 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials as a joke.

In a step reflecting the rising tensions in what Reuters describes as the "most serious East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War," Putin moved forward with the annexation of Crimea despite strong Ukrainian protests and Western sanctions.

The treaty follows a controversial referendum in Crimea on Sunday, which took place under Russian military occupation, in which 97 percent of voters reportedly declared their support for Russian rule, after being a part of the Ukraine for 60 years, according to Reuters.

President Barack Obama declared in an Executive Order Monday that the U.S. had imposed sanctions on the 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials over the crisis because the policies and actions of the Russian government are causing political upheaval in the Ukraine, particularly due to the presence of the Russian military in Crimea.

"Any assets these individuals have within U.S. jurisdiction are frozen, and U.S. persons are prohibited from doing business with them. And we will urge our counterparts in financial institutions and businesses around the world to shun these individuals," said a senior Obama administration official about the sanctions.

(Photo: Twitter/Dmitry Rogozin)Russia's Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Rogozin.

In a response made in a series of tweets from his Twitter account on Monday, however, Rogozin, who is one of the seven Russian officials sanctioned by the U.S., asked President Obama how those sanctions would affect Russian officials with no U.S. interests.

"Comrade @BarackObama, what should do those who have neither accounts nor property abroad? Or U didn't think about it?)," asked Rogozin.

"I think some prankster prepared the draft of this Act of the US President)," he continued.

Twitter/Dmitry Rogozin
Twitter/Dmitry Rogozin

The seven Russian officials sanctioned by the U.S. are: Vladislav Surkov, the presidential aide to Putin; Sergey Glazyev, also a presidential adviser to Putin; Leonid Slutsky, a state Duma deputy; Andrei Klishas, a member of the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, and chairman of the Federation Council Committee of Constitutional Law, Judicial, and Legal Affairs, and the Development of Civil Society; Valentina Matviyenko, head of the Federation Council; Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation; and Yelena Mizulina, a state Duma deputy.

Four Ukrainians also pegged for sanctions are: Sergey Aksyonov, whom the White House says "claims to be" the prime minister of Crimea; Vladimir Konstantinov, acting speaker of the Crimean parliament; Viktor Medvedchuk, leader of Ukrainian Choice; and former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych.

A report from the Daily Beast indicated that Russia's response to the sanctions won't just end with Rogozin's tweets. Putin is expected to respond with a list of sanctioned U.S. senators as early as Tuesday, according to the report.

"Putin is expected to release his retaliation list as early as Tuesday and while the final list is still being crafted, it will include top Obama administration officials and high profile U.S. senators, in an effort to roughly mirror the U.S. sanctions against Russian officials and lawmakers, according to diplomatic sources," noted the Daily Beast.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, who co-authored a resolution criticizing Russia's invasion of Crimea is expected to be at the top of Putin's list and he welcomed it with pride.

"My Lithuanian-born mother would be proud her son made Vladimir Putin's American enemies list," said Durbin.

Sen. John McCain, who met with Ukrainian leaders in Kiev last weekend, said he also expects to make the Russian leader's list and is happy about it.

"You think I'm not going to be on it?" said McCain. "I would be honored to be on that list."

"I guess I'm going to have to try to withdraw my money from my secret account in St. Petersburg," he quipped.

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