Calling the annexation of Crimea by Russia a "remarkable event," Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation to formally complete the annexation on Friday.
The annexation was fast-tracked. It was only Sunday that Crimea held a vote to include themselves into the Russian fold. Even though the signing formally completed the annexation, the Kremlin states that the treaty came into force as soon as it was signed by Crimean officials and Putin on Tuesday.
As Crimea moved to become a part of Russia, the remainder of the Ukraine worked to move closer to the west on Friday. Ukrainian Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, traveled to Brussels, Belgium, on Friday and signed a trade pact with the European Union. It was the very same pact that ousted Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych ditched in favor of moving closer to Russia. It was that decision that sparked the protests that ultimately led to his unseating.
Although Russia’s Finance Minister said in Moscow on Friday that his country will face borrowing difficulties due to increasing costs, and stated that Russia “will look at our oil and gas revenues. If the situation is like it is now, we will probably have to give up external borrowings and cut domestic ones,” the targets of the sanctions took them lightly. The Russian individuals wore the sanctions imposed on them, like their U.S. counterparts, like badges of pride.
Head of Russian Railways, Vladimir Yakunin said that “It is clear they strike at those who have some worth,” and wrote in his blog, “On the one hand I am in good company. I cannot hide that I felt flattered. All the people on the list are notable people, people who have done a lot for Russia.” Yakunin, like the others targetted, mocked the sanctions imposed on them.
Putin himself attempted to trivialize the sanctions placed on Bank Rossiya, saying that he will deposit his wages there, saying, “As I understand, it’s an average bank. I personally didn’t have an account there, but I’ll definitely open it on Monday.” But it is believed that without support to the lender and the intersts of its depositers and creditors by the Russian government, the sanctions will have serious bearing on the financial stability of the institution. Bank Rossiya has $12 billion in assets and is considered the personal bank of many of Russia’s senior officials. Visa and Mastercard stopped services to the bank as a result of the sanctions imposed on it.
Although, in response to the sanctions imposed by the U.S. on high-ranking Russians, Putin retaliated with sanctions placed on high-profile U.S. officials, he pointed out that his country will continue to fund the joint NATO Russian program in place to service Afghanistan’s helicopters and train its crews. Of that, Putin stated, “We must continue that cooperation even though our NATO partners intend to freeze it,” Putin said. “I believe this work represents our common interests, and we need to strengthen the Afghan government.
As a result of the downgrading of the outlook in Russia by S&P, Russian stocks have suffered losses in the market of up to 3% before rebounding to a fall of 2.1%. Russia’s market has fallen a huge 10% this month alone, costing market capitalization in that country billions.