RUSSIA SANCTIONS: PARANOID
The Russian Foreign Ministry denounced new Western sanctions against Ukraine's Crimea region on Saturday as a "collective punishment" on local residents who voted in a referendum last March to join Russia.
Both the European Union and United States adopted tighter restrictions on investments in Crimea this week, targeting individuals, Russian Black Sea oil and gas exploration and tourism.
The referendum, which Ukraine and Western countries rejected as illegal, resulted in a 97 percent vote in favour of joining Crimea to the Russian Federation. President Vladimir Putin signed a decree the following day to annex the peninsula.
"Introducing new unilateral sanctions against the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sebastopol by the USA and European Union is a direct evidence that the West has acknowledged that the decision by the Crimeans to rejoin Russia was unanimous and voluntary," the ministry said in a statement.
"That's why they chose the 'punishment' to be collective," it added. "It is sad that the countries which call themselves democratic resort to such methods in the 21st century."
The West slapped sanctions on Moscow over Crimea and stepped them up as pro-Russian separatist unrest spread to the eastern Ukraine regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where rebels seeking to split from Kiev are now fighting government troops.
Kiev and its Western backers accuse Moscow of fanning the violence and arming the rebels. Moscow denies the accusations and says it annexed Crimea only after a local referendum showed most residents wanted it to become part of Russia.
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