Russia on Wednesday cancelled a meeting planned between its officials and the U.S. that was aimed at resolving problems between the two countries. The decision came after the U.S. announced an expansion of sanctions against Russian individuals and legal entities in response to the continuing occupation of Ukraine by Russia.
The meeting was expected to be attended by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and the U.S. Under Secretary of State Tom Shannon and was due to take place in St Petersburg, CNN reported.
Russian Foreign Ministry told CNN that the situation is not conducive to hold talks between the two sides.
On Tuesday, the U.S. had tightened sanctions to force Russia to end its occupation of Crimea. Thirty-eight people including two government officials were added to a list of sanctions targets. The sanction forbid these people from doing business with American citizens and companies and also freezes their assets.
The Treasury Department said in a statement that the sanctions would not be lifted until Russia leaves Crimea. The European Union has also extended its own sanctions over Russia's annexation that forbids investment in Crimea as well as imports from the region to the EU.
However, despite the increasing pressure from all sides, Russian President Vladimir Putin does not seem to be ready to walk away from Crimea. Here are four reasons why Russia does not want to leave Crimea:
Resources in the Black Sea
The Black Sea is rich in resources. By controlling Crimea, Russia has access to the abundant undersea hydrocarbon resources. Commercially viable gas reserves have reportedly been found under the Crimean mainland and some companies have already shown interest. This is important to Russia as its supply of cheaply accessible gas in Siberia is running low.
If Ukraine in inducted into NATO, it would be a strategic setback for Russia. The move would cut off Russia from the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Putin has previously said that Ukraine’s accession to NATO would be intolerable, reports have said. Putin also plans to build a Eurasian Union (EEU) on the lines of the European Union.
Correcting an “historical injustice”
The Russian President after the annexation of Crimea was reported as saying that the break-up of the former Soviet Union was a “historical injustice” that caused “traumatic effects” on citizens. Putin had further said that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushechev made a mistake by giving Crimea, which was a part of Russia, to Ukraine, reports have said.
Fear of protests
Constant anti-government protests have been reported in various parts of Ukraine in the last few years over issues such as corruption. Russia too faces similar problems. Putin’s intervention in Crimea is also an attempt to stop the pro-democracy feelings from spilling over to Russia. Reports suggest that thousands of anti-government protesters had hit the streets of Moscow two years ago. With the presidential election scheduled in 2018, Putin does not want to take any chances.