Putin Signs Treaty to Make Crimea Part of Russia

Published: 18th March 2014 08:24 PM  |   Last Updated: 18th March 2014 08:24 PM   |  A+A-

Crimean_AP
By PTI

President Vladimir Putin today signed  a treaty making Crimea part of Russia, in a historic redrawing  of Russia's borders after he declared that the Black Sea  region has always been "in the hearts" of his countrymen.           

In a fast-moving sequence of events following Crimea's controversial secession referendum on Sunday, the Kremlin said  Crimea was now considered part of Russia and no longer  Ukrainian territory, shrugging off strong international  objections. 

"In the hearts and minds of people, Crimea has always been  and remains an inseparable part of Russia," Putin said in an  emotional address broadcast on television.        

The move, which came sooner than expected, risks plunging  the West and Russia into a crisis not seen since the Cold War  and sent shock waves through the new authorities in Ukraine  who took over after the ousting of pro-Kremlin president  Viktor Yanukovych last month.          

Putin signed the treaty with Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov and other Crimean leaders at a ceremony at the Kremlin attended by both houses of parliament. Lawmakers, who still have to formally ratify the treaty, broke into applause and cheers after the signing.   

"The Republic of Crimea is considered to be part of Russia from the date of the signing of the treaty," the Kremlin said.            

Crimea and the city of Sevastopol -- the home of the  Russian Black Sea fleet which has special status -- are being  incorporated as new constituent parts of the Russian  Federation.       

The signing -- which had not been flagged in advance -- came after Putin gave a fiery address at the Kremlin seeking to justify the incorporation of Crimea into Russia. 

His defiant speech brushed off US and EU sanctions touted as the most severe against Moscow since the end of the Cold War. Putin said Crimea belonged with Russia and he slammed the Soviet-era decision by Nikita Khrushchev to gift the peninsula to the Ukrainian Soviet republic as riddled with "violations". 

"When Crimea suddenly ended up being in another state, Russia felt it was not simply robbed --- it was plundered." 

He added that Russia was tired of being pushed into a corner by the West and said it had been repeatedly deceived on  issues like NATO, missile defence and visa-free travel. 

"On Ukraine the West crossed a line," he said, warning it against provoking Russia. "They are trying to drive us into a corner."       

But he sought to play down fears that Russia was seeking to also incorporate parts of eastern and southern Ukraine. "We don't want the break-up of Ukraine. We do not need it," Putin said.       

The seizure of Crimea by pro-Russian forces following the  ouster of Yanukovych last month has been condemned around the  world.

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