* Russia annexed Crimea after referendum
* EU includes Crimean firms in latest sanctions
By Alexander Winning
SIMFEROPOL, Crimea, May 12 European sanctions on
Crimea-based companies and individuals over Russia's annexation
of the region from Ukraine will not have a major impact, the
peninsula's deputy prime minister said on Monday.
European Union foreign ministers agreed new sanctions over
Russia's support for pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine on
Monday, adding two Crimean companies and 13 people to the bloc's
The EU had previously been reluctant to impose sanctions on
Russian companies, reflecting concerns among member states over
their trade ties with Moscow and reliance on Russian energy.
"The EU should rethink its approach on sanctions," Crimean
Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliyev, against whom the
United States and EU have imposed a visa ban and asset freeze,
told Reuters in an interview in the region's main city.
He accused European politicians of "double standards".
"In a democratic way, without violence, we held a referendum
and Russia took us in. Why are they imposing sanctions on us for
this?" he said, referring to a March 16 vote in which local
authorities say 97 percent voted to become citizens of Russia.
Russia annexed Crimea on March 21 but U.S. and EU officials
view the Crimea referendum as illegitimate and have not
recognised self-rule votes held by pro-Russian separatists in
Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions on Sunday.
Temirgaliyev said the new sanctions were meaningless, citing
Crimea's relatively minor trade links with the EU.
"Personally, I don't feel any restrictions. I have travelled
around lots of European countries and don't plan to travel there
in the near future. I don't have any assets there either," he
Temirgaliyev acknowledged, however, that annexation by
Russia had brought some short-term economic problems, including
a drop in tourist numbers and disruption to the banking sector.
But he said Crimea would benefit from becoming part of
Russia in the long run and that local authorities were drawing
up plans to develop strategic sectors of the local economy,
including shipbuilding, agriculture and tourism.
"We want to create a special economic zone - a so-called
'civilised offshore zone' - which will have a special tax
regime. We want to return a portion of Russian capital from
offshore jurisdictions such as Cyprus," he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been pushing for the
"deoffshorisation" of the Russian economy, whereby companies
with offshore entities re-register them in Russia, but it is not
clear how much Crimea would benefit from this.
In another effort to increase regional revenues,
Temirgaliyev said Crimea also wanted to build a gambling zone.
(Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Timothy Heritage)