The United States and Europe hit Vladimir Putin’s inner circle with sanctions but failed to dissuade the Russian leader from pursuing his apparent goal of annexing Crimea.
The White House said the measures were the toughest against Russia since the Cold War and warned it would target economic power brokers in Moscow if the Kremlin does not change course.
There was no sign of Putin backing down, however, and Crimea’s pro-Moscow authorities made plans to swiftly honor Sunday’s 96 percent referendum vote to return to the Russian fold.
Putin took a step closer to formally annexing the territory by recognizing its independence from Ukraine, opening the way for Russian lawmakers to later endorse its accession.
Monday’s dramatic developments marked the most direct clash between the West and the Kremlin in decades.
Sanctions also came from Canada and Japan, which denounced Russia’s “deplorable” move in recognizing the breakaway vote.