Putin to sign treaty to make Crimea part of Russia
MOSCOW - Reuters
A man waves Russian flags in Simferopol's Lenin Square on March 17. AFP photoPresident Vladimir Putin has approved a draft treaty to make Crimea part of Russia, the Kremlin said on March 18, confirming that Russia plans to make the southern Ukrainian region part of Russia. It said he would sign the treaty with Crimea's leader.
Putin signed an order on March 17 "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 order was part of a series of steps to bring Crimea into Russia after voters there approved the move in a weekend referendum that Ukraine and the West have called denounced by Ukraine and the West as illegal.
Putin is to address parliament later on March 18.
The moves heightened the most serious East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War as U.S. President Barack Obama warned that "further provocations" would only increase Moscow's isolation and exact a greater toll on its economy.
"If Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose further sanctions," Obama said March 17.
In Brussels, the EU's 28 foreign ministers agreed to subject 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials to visa restrictions and asset freezes for their roles in the events. They included three Russian military commanders in Crimea and districts bordering on Ukraine.
Washington and Brussels said further steps could follow in the coming days if Russia does not back down and formally annexes Crimea.
A complete preliminary count of Sunday's vote showed that 96.77 percent of voters opted to join Russia, the chairman of the regional government commission overseeing the referendum, Mikhail Malyshev, announced on television.
Officials said the turnout was 83 percent. Crimea is home to 2 million people. Members of the ethnic Ukrainian and Muslim Tatar minorities had said they would boycott the poll, held just weeks after Russian forces took control of the peninsula.