Today, Russian President Vladimir Puntin signed documents that formally annexed the region of Crimea, officially making it a part of Russia—at least according to Russian officials. The United States and other Western nations have said that the move was a violation of international law. In a speech prior to the signing, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said, “Frankly speaking, I don't care about Russia signing this deal; I care about Ukraine, Ukrainians and our European future.” He also reiterated the position that, “We strongly condemn the unconstitutional referendum in Crimea. We will not recognize the annexation, nor will we recognize it in the future.” The Obama administration announced new economic sanctions against Russia, which appear to already be having a dramatic effect. The S&P lowered the countries credit rating in light of the sanctions, and according to this report, “ $60 billion left Russia in the first three months of this year” ... Discuss


In a special vote that saw a turnout of 83%, the Crimean public has chosen to officially become part of Russia. And it was not even close—more than 96% of voters took the side of joining Putin’s nation opposed to remaining an autonomous region. Since the ouster of Ukraine’s President Yanukovych weeks ago by pro-Western opposition demonstrators, Russian forces have been a significant presence in the region. White House and E.U. officials both said that the move was a violation of international law, and the Obama administration issued a statement saying that the voting process was "administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention.” The United States will not recognize its outcome, and will likely introduce new economic sanctions against Russia ... Discuss


Despite threats of sanctions from the U.S., Russian officials have said they support a recently-passed measure that will allow the people of Crimea to vote on whether or not they will become part of Russia. Parliament leaders in the autonomous region—which has been considered part of Ukraine—agreed that the vote would be held on March 16. Ukrainian and Western officials said that the decision was made by an illegitimate legislator who took power by force. They also object to the massive Russian military occupation in the region. The Russians, however, say that they do not recognize the new, pro-Western government in Kiev, which took power following the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych ... Discuss


Things in the Crimea region appear to be getting extremely volatile. According to a report in a Russian state news agency, if Ukrainian military forces do not leave the disputed area by 10:00 pm this evening (which is 5:00 am in Crimea) they will be subjected to a “military storm.” However, a Ukraine Security Service spokesman told CNN that his country has not received an official ultimatum from Russia. The autonomous peninsula has been the scene of a sort of standoff between troops from both countries since the Russian-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted by pro-Western demonstrators last week ...

UPDATE: A spokesman for the Russian Black Sea Fleet has said there is no plans for an attack and there is no ultimatum. However, the situation remains tense. President Obama said that Russia is in violation of international law for its recent military moves, adding "no country has a right to send in troops to another country unprovoked." Discuss


Even after President Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster following weeks of deadly protest, the situation in Ukraine still appears to be unstable. According to reports, gunmen have taken over several government buildings in the Crimea region, raising the Russian flag. The country’s new leaders are a result of protests demanding pro-Western reforms in the Ukraine and a loosening of its strong ties with Russia. This week, Yanukovych—who is believed to now be in Russia—issued a statement saying that he is still the country’s president and that current action by the parliament and the “extremists” who have taken over are illegitimate. The siege of the government buildings in Crimea comes just days after the Russian military ordered large exercises close to their border with Ukraine, in what officials called a show of “combat readiness” ... Discuss


The Anti-Corruption Foundation, nonprofit organization that’s run by a Russian opposition leader, has released this infograph that shows just how rampant the corruption at the Sochi Winter Olympics has been. Fast Company has broken down some of the numbers, and they are completely insane. A single seat at the Bolshoy Ice Dome—a building with a price tag of $300 million—costs the Russian people $25,200. The Media Center, where journalists hang out to cover the events, costs $1.2 billion, enough to buy a brand new MacBook for every former student who graduated high school last year in the country. Nearly $9 billion was spent on the new highway leading to Sochi; that’s more than the entire cost of hosting the Vancouver Olympics. To date, Russia has spent an estimated $51 billion on the Sochi games—a price higher than the cost of every other Winter Olympics combined ... Discuss