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An armed man, believed to be a Russian serviceman, stands guard outside a Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye, near the Crimean city of Simferopol, March 14, 2014. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko) An armed man, believed to be a Russian serviceman, stands guard outside a Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye, near the Crimean city of Simferopol, March 14, 2014. (REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko)  

Crimea nationalizes Ukrainian energy firms ahead of Russian annexation

Crimea has voted to become an independent nation and now the Black Sea separatists are moving to nationalize Ukrainian energy firms operating within its borders.

Despite not being recognized by Western countries, Crimea has moved to nationalize energy companies after “deciding all Ukrainian state property would be transferred into Crimean ownership,” reports AFP.

“All establishments, businesses and other organisations of Ukraine or with Ukrainian participation on the territory of Crimea will belong to Crimea,” the separatist assembly in Simferopol announced after the secession vote.

Shortly after Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine, the separatist government nationalized the state-owned oil company Chornomornaftogaz as well as the oil and natural gas rich “continental shelf and exclusive economic zone” off of Crimea’s Black Sea coast. Separatists also nationalized the energy companies Ukrtransgaz and the Feodosiya.

According to AFP, Chornomornaftogaz is the principal energy company in Crimea and has operations in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The company extracted 1.2 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 2012

This plays into Vladimir Putin’s hand. The Russian president has wholeheartedly endorsed the results of Crimea’s vote to break with Ukraine and Russia has formally presented a treaty to make Crimea part of the Russian Federation.

Once Russia annexes Crimea, state-owned enterprises, such as Gazprom, may purchase former Ukrainian energy firms like Chornomornaftogaz, according to Crimea’s separatist government. This would only add to Gazprom’s energy war chest and give Russia control over more European oil and gas reserves.

The U.S. and Europe, however, have called the vote “illegal,” as it violated Ukraine’s constitution and international law. Senior White House officials have said they have “concrete evidence” that some of the ballots cast in Monday’s vote were tampered with.

The Obama administration has slapped sanctions on seven Russian officials and four Ukrainians who undermined efforts to keep the country together and supported Crimean secession. More sanctions could be imposed in the future, President Barack Obama said.

“We’ll continue to make clear to Russia that further provocations will achieve nothing except to further isolate Russia and diminish its place in the world,” said Obama. “The international community will continue to stand together to oppose any violations of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and continued Russian intervention in Ukraine will only deepen Russia’s diplomatic isolation and exact a greater toll on the Russian economy.”

While many Crimeans celebrated Monday’s secession vote, others were not so happy. Ethnic minorities in the region boycotted the polls and are fearful of a resurgence of persecution by Moscow.

Ethnic Ukrainians and Tartar Muslims make up about 12 percent of Crimea’s population and did not support secession.

“This is my land. This is the land of my ancestors. Who asked me if I want it or not?” Shevkaye Assanova, a Tatar, told Reuters. “I don’t recognize this at all.”

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