Capture12With Crimea’s referendum now over, Russia is expected to move ahead swiftly to annex the peninsula, despite the vast damage such a step could do to its relations with the west. In doing so, it will be entering uncharted waters. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has not absorbed any new territory, and it is not even clear that it has the laws in place to do so. Analysts say that should be no obstacle. “By April, Crimea will be part of Russia,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the quarterly journal Russia in Global Affairs. “Even though there’s no precedent for it, they will get it done as quickly as possible.” Russian officials have made it clear they view Crimea’s referendum as legitimate, whatever the west might say, and will respect the result. Alena Arshinova, a leading member of the ruling United Russia party, on Sunday called Russia the “guarantor of peace and stability on the territory of the former Soviet Union”, and said that in this role, it was duty-bound to implement the results of Crimea’s poll. MORE