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Italy says Russia likely to face more sanctions

Moscow signs annexation treaty with Crimea

18 March, 19:47
Italy says Russia likely to face more sanctions

(By Stefania Fumo) (ANSA) - Rome, March 18 - Russia is likely to get slapped with more sanctions soon for its annexation of Crimea, Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini told a joint session of the parliamentary foreign affairs committees Tuesday.

Russia may become ''seriously isolated'', she added. This echoed the words of United States Vice President Joe Biden, who said in Poland that Russia faces additional US and European Union sanctions if it doesn't back down from what he called ''nothing more than a land grab'' based on ''flawed logic''.

In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said preparatory work is underway for a possible third tier of sanctions against Moscow, including economic and trade measures, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The US on Monday imposed sanctions on seven top Russian officials and four Ukrainians for threatening Ukraine's territorial integrity, including ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, while the European Union unveiled travel bans and asset freezes against 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials, including Russian Vice Admiral Alexander Vitko, the head of Russia's Black Sea fleet.

This came after 96% of Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine in a referendum on Sunday that the West has declared illegitimate.

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin officially recognized the region's independence, and on Tuesday he informed his parliament of Crimea's request to join Russia in a first step towards annexing the peninsula, which is home to Russia's Black Sea fleet.

This prompted the Group of Eight (G8) to suspend Russia from the club of the world's most developed economies, France's foreign minister said.

''We have decided to suspend Russia's participation, that is we foresee all the other countries, the seven largest countries, coming together without Russia'', Laurent Fabius told France's Radio Europe 1.

The European Union said Tuesday it did not recognise Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Undaunted, Putin in a ceremony in the Kremlin later the same day signed a treaty with Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov and the mayor of the city of Sevastopol, making Crimea a part of the Russian Federation.

US President Barack Obama followed up by calling for meetings of the Group of Seven leaders as well as the European Union to discuss the situation in Ukraine next week in The Hague.

The G7 and EU meetings are to take place on the margins of a nuclear security summit on March 24-25 and ''will focus on the situation in Ukraine and further steps that the G7 may take to respond to developments and to support Ukraine'', said White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.

Hayden added that Putin's actions were a "threat" to peace.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told US Secretary of State John Kerry in a telephone conversation that the sanctions against Russia would have "consequences".

The G7 nations, including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US, have suspended preparatory meetings for a G8 summit that would have included Russia and was scheduled to take place in June in the Russian city of Sochi.

Also on Tuesday, Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed over the phone that a coordinated response to the Ukraine situation is required.

The seizure of Crimea by pro-Russian forces following the February 22 ouster of Yanukovych has been condemned around the world.

The Ministry of Defence in Kiev, meanwhile, authorised Ukrainian military forces in Crimea to use their weapons after one of their soldiers was killed and Russian military blamed. Russian forces alleged fired on a Ukraine military post near the Crimean city of Simferopol. Interim Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk blamed Russian soldiers for the killing.