As previously reported, the key event of the weekend was the east Ukraine independence referendum which, as expected, passed by a landslide. Of course, the outcome of the referendum itself was largely irrelevant: all that mattered was that it happened, and that it gave the Kremlin the necessary and sufficient justification to intervene and enter the eastern territory when so needed. And hours ago, in its first official statement on the referendum, the Kremlin said Monday “it respects the secession referendum in eastern Ukraine and hopes for a “civilized implementation” of the results through talks between Kiev and representatives in the east.” In other words, at least in the eyes of Putin, Ukraine no longer has a legitimate claim to remain in Ukraine.
Pro-Russian separatists declared victory in Sunday’s vote, ratcheting up tensions between the West and Moscow. In its first comments since the referendum, the Kremlin appears to challenge the West and Kiev’s standpoint that it was illegitimate. (Read the latest updates on the crisis in Ukraine.)