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.
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)
Voters celebrate in Simferopol, Crimea
Thousands of pro-Russian Crimeans gathered to celebrate the outcome of Sunday’s referendum, which has been condemned as illegal by the EU and US. © Mehdi Chebil/FRANCE 24
A woman holds a sign showing a map of Crimea and the words: “Hello Russia! We have been waiting a long time for you.” © Mehdi Chebil/ FRANCE 24
A Statue of Lenin, symbol of the region’s Soviet past, watches over the celebrations. © Mehdi Chebil/FRANCE 24
Some brought their children along for the historic celebrations and to hear the concert in Lenin Square. © Mehdi Chebil/FRANCE 24
A man in a Ukrainian military uniform captures the festivities on a camcorder. It was a landmark day for Crimea’s residents, many of whom have always felt closer to Moscow than Kiev. © Mehdi Chebil/FRANCE 24
A man holds the flag of the Soviet fleet, forerunner to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet that is stationed in the Crimean port of Sebastopol. © Mehdi Chebil/FRANCE 24
Russian Black Sea Fleet sailors perform on stage in front of a cheering crowd. © Mehdi Chebil/FRANCE 24
The party continued late into the night for Simferopol’s residents. © Mehdi Chebil/FRANCE 24
Date created : 2014-03-18