on Friday, Russia’s parliamentary leaders, both strong allies of Mr. Putin, welcomed a delegation from Crimea’s regional assembly and declared that they would support a vote to break away from Ukraine, now scheduled for March 16.
The referendum has been denounced by the fledgling national government in Kiev, which said it would invalidate the outcome and dissolve the Crimean Parliament. President Obama has also rejected the referendum, and the United States government announced sanctions on Thursday in response to Russia’s de facto military occupation.
Russia denounced those sanctions in a blunt rejoinder on Friday evening, posted on the Foreign Ministry website. The statement said that Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, had spoken by telephone with Secretary of State John Kerry and warned that “hasty and ill-considered steps” to impose sanctions on Russian officials “would inevitably backfire on the United States itself.”
The Russians also sent menacing economic signals to the financially ailing interim central government in Kiev, which Russia has refused to recognize. Gazprom, the Russian natural gas monopoly, which supplies Ukraine with most of its gas, warned that it might shut off supplies unless Ukraine paid $1.89 billion owed to the company.