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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times

Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree recognizing Crimea as a “sovereign and independent government” following a controversial vote on the Russian-occupied peninsula to secede from Ukraine, the Kremlin news service announced late Monday.

The swift official recognition of the vote Sunday engineered by Russian nationalists installed in the regional leadership just two weeks ago was likely to enflame an already tense standoff between the Kremlin and an interim leadership in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, which branded the secession vote illegal and provocative.

“Considering the willful expression of the people of Crimea in the all-Crimean referendum, which took place on 16 March 2014, the Republic of Crimea, whose city of Sevastopol has special status, is recognized as a sovereign and independent government,” the decree issued by Putin reads.

Sevastopol is home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

The only other wording of the statement proclaimed the decree to be in force from the day of its signing.

The referendum on whether Crimea should secede from Ukraine and become an independent state in preparation for annexation to Russia was held just two weeks after Russian troops entered Crimea by the thousands and seized control of the parliament and government headquarters in Simferopol, the regional capital.

Russian troops, some openly bearing their military insignia while others carrying the same arms and uniforms claimed to be local “self-defense forces,” have surrounded most Ukrainian military and commercial installations and ordered those in charge to submit to Russian authority.

Sunday’s referendum also led to the Kremlin-installed regional premier, Sergei Aksenov, declaring that all Ukrainian facilities in Crimea were nationalized with the overwhelming vote — among those allowed to cast ballots — for independence. The local government also appealed to Moscow on Monday to begin the process of inducting Crimea into the Russian Federation.

Crimea was ruled by Russia for centuries before Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred the territory to Soviet Ukraine in 1954. It is also the only region of Ukraine with an ethnic Russian majority of the population.

Most Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars boycotted Sunday’s referendum in protest of the territorial transfer condemned in the West as a violation of the U.N. Charter, the Ukrainian constitution and international law.

Photo: NATO-Russia Council via Flickr

Actor as Donald Trump in Russia Today video ad

Screenshot from RT's 'Trump is here to make RT Great Again'

Russia Today, the network known in this country as RT, has produced a new "deep fake" video that portrays Donald Trump in post-presidential mode as an anchor for the Kremlin outlet. Using snippets of Trump's own voice and an actor in an outlandish blond wig, the ad suggests broadly that the US president is indeed a wholly owned puppet of Vladimir Putin– as he has so often given us reason to suspect.

"They're very nice. I make a lot of money with them," says the actor in Trump's own voice. "They pay me millions and hundreds of millions."

But when American journalists described the video as "disturbing," RT retorted that their aim wasn't to mock Trump, but his critics and every American who objects to the Russian manipulations that helped bring him to power.

As an ad for RT the video is amusing, but the network's description of it is just another lie. Putin's propagandists are again trolling Trump and America, as they've done many times over the past few years –- and this should be taken as a warning of what they're doing as Election Day approaches.

The Lincoln Project aptly observed that the Russians "said the quiet part out loud" this time, (Which is a bad habit they share with Trump.)