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Monday, March 24, 2014

Putin laughs at sanctions over Crimea

Putin now has Crimea back under Russian contol but at what cost? His decision to hold a democratic referendum to prove to the world that the majority of the Crimean people wanted to be part of Russia was just part of his long-range plan to keep Ukraine out of the arms of the EU and under his thumb.

Western individuals and companies are now barred from doing business with 12 of Putin's best friends. Assets are frozen, Visa and MasterCard have stopped transactions for Bank Rossiya and shares of companies linked to people on the black list have nose-dived.

But Putin's popularity is at an all-time high.  His people believe he's done a lot for Russia, their standard of living has risen under his rule and seeing him stand up to western bullying only makes him more of a hero.

European leaders are currently working on plans to break Putin's hold on gas and energy supplies.  The South Stream Pipeline, intended to link the EU to Russia through the Black Sea is now dead.  Gas group Novatak, owned by Gennady Timchenko has dropped 16 per cent since he was put on the black list and he had to sell his 43 per cent stake in Gunvor, the world's fourth largest oil trader, to his partner, to save Novatak.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there was an "unbelievable lack of trust in Russia" when Putin decided to extend his borders by force. The EU is obviously determined to make Putin pay and there is now a real threat to the Russian economy.

So we have a stand-off situation with no solution in sight.  Putin insists he has no plans to invade other parts of Ukraine or anywhere else, and the EU needs to butt out of his business.  The EU says they will punish him until he reverses his annexation of Crimea. Both scenarios seem highly unlikely.