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Defiant Putin approves draft bill for Russia to annex Crimea

© AFP

Video by Robert PARSONS

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-03-18

Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved a draft bill for the annexation of Crimea, the Kremlin said on Tuesday, one of a series of steps necessary to formally annex the Black Sea peninsula.

Defying Ukrainian protests and Western sanctions, Russia said it would move forward with procedures to absorb Ukraine's Crimean region.

Putin signed an order on Monday, "to approve the draft treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Crimea on adopting the Republic of Crimea into the Russian Federation".

The move followed a disputed referendum in Crimea on Sunday, staged under Russian military occupation, in which a Soviet-style 97 percent of voters were declared to have voted to return to Russian rule, after 60 years as part of Ukraine. The West and Ukraine described the referendum as illegitimate.

The treaty to annex Crimea has to be signed by leaders of Russia and Crimea, approved by the Constitutional Court and then be ratified by the parliament.

Putin is set to address both houses of the parliament at 3:00pm Moscow time (11:00 GMT+1) in a nationally televised speech where he is widely expected to stake Russia's claim on Crimea.

Stakes being raised

"The president is going to set out his position over the request of Crimea to become part of Russia in line with the result of the referendum," said Sergei Naryshkin, speaker of the State Duma lower house of parliament.

OBAMA, ASHTON: CRIMEA VOTE BREACHES UKRAINE CONSTITUTION

By pressing ahead with steps to dismember Ukraine against its will, Putin raised the stakes in the most serious East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War.

On Monday, the United States and the European Union imposed personal sanctions on a small group of officials from Russia and Ukraine accused of involvement in Moscow's military seizure of the Ukrainian territory.

Crimea had been part of Russia since the 18th century until Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred it to Ukraine in 1954. Both Russians and Crimea's majority ethnic Russian population see annexation as correcting a historic insult.

Russian forces took control of Crimea in late February following the toppling of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich after deadly clashes between riot police and protesters trying to overturn his decision to spurn a trade and cooperation deal with the EU and seek closer ties with Russia.

(FRANCE 24 with Reuters, AP, AFP)

Date created : 2014-03-18

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