Ignoring the toughest sanctions against Moscow since the end of the Cold War, Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula as an "independent and sovereign country" on Monday, a bold challenge to Washington that escalates one of Europe's worst security crises in years.
The brief decree posted on the Kremlin's website came just hours after the United States and the European Union announced asset freezes and other sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian officials involved in the Crimean crisis.
That referendum has one North Texas woman concerned that because her family back home in Crimea doesn't support Russia, they'll be treated like dissidents.
Susana Sherfedinova immigrated to North Richland Hills in Aug. 2013, but her heart remains in her homeland, and she says Crimea's decision to break away from Ukraine and join Russia was rigged.
"It's very dangerous now," she said. "I'm afraid. I am very afraid. I'm scared."
Sherfedinova describes herself and her fellow countrymen as a fierce member of the Crimean Tatars, an indigenous people who inhabited the peninsula for 700 years before they were forced from their homeland in the mid-1940s.
"They are afraid…that they can be deported again," said Sherfedinova.
She asked her family to leave on their own, but her father is in poor health. They are afraid to go outside, and Sherfedinova worries her family is running out of food and water.
"My parents bought food for 15, 20 days," said Sherfedinova.
She thinks President Putin's goal is to go beyond the peninsula and annex more of Ukraine, and her family will be in further jeopardy.
For now, Sherfedinova cherishes home videos of her family in happier times, hoping for the best.
She believes President Putin is most likely interested in the oil and gas in the region, near the coast of the Black Sea.
The Crimean Tatars account for about 2 million people.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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