The Russian President and Crimea’s leaders signed an agreement formalising the region’s absorption into Russia. Putin criticised Ukraine’s post-uprising leaders and those behind the unrest, saying they were “extremists” who had brought chaos.
President Vladimir Putin has told Russia’s parliament that Crimea has “always been part of Russia”.
Mr Putin was speaking at the Kremlin, where he announced new laws for Crimea to join the Russian Federation and asked MPs to back the move, the BBC reports.
Mr Putin and Crimea’s leaders then signed an agreement formalising the region’s absorption into Russia. Crimea declared independence from Ukraine on Monday after a widely condemned referendum.
Crimean officials say 97% of voters backed splitting from Ukraine, but the EU and US have declared the vote illegal and imposed sanctions. The government in Kiev described the vote as a “circus” held at gunpoint.
The EU and US have declared the vote illegal and imposed sanctions in response.
Travel bans and asset freezes have been imposed on government officials and other figures in Russia, Crimea and Ukraine, but these have been largely dismissed as ineffectual in Russia.
Mr Putin earlier on Tuesday recognised Crimea as a sovereign state and approved a draft bill on the accession.
Then in a televised address in front of both houses of parliament – and in the presence of Crimea’s new leaders – he said: “In the hearts and minds of people, Crimea has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia.” The referendum had been legal and its results were “more than convincing”, he said.
“The people of Crimea clearly and convincingly expressed their will – they want to be with Russia,” he said, and were no longer prepared to put up with the “historical injustice” of being part of Ukraine.
He criticised Ukraine’s post-uprising leaders and those behind the unrest, saying they were “extremists” who had brought chaos. He praised the “courage, bearing and dignity” of Crimeans, and thanked all Russians for their “patriotic feeling”.
The West, he said, had behaved “irresponsibly” in backing the uprising, and dismissed concerns that Russia might go on to annex more of Ukraine. “Don’t trust those who frighten you with Russia… we do not need a divided Ukraine” he said.
Russia “will of course be facing foreign confrontation” he said. “But we have to decide for ourselves, are we to protect our national interest or just carry on giving them away forever?”
He also thanked China for its support during the crisis. Beijing, which routinely avoids commenting on the affairs of other countries, had abstained from voting on a UN draft resolution condemning Russia for its actions in Crimea.
Mr Putin and Crimea’s Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov then signed the bill to make the Black Sea peninsula a part of Russia.
The bill must now be approved by the constitutional court and then ratified by parliament.