Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday signed into law legislation on the accession of Crimea after both houses of the Russian parliament unanimously approved it. Putin also said that Russia will refrain from imposing retaliatory sanctions against the US.
"I signed several decrees today, including the decree on the formation of one more federal district, the Crimean federal district," Putin said at the signing ceremony.
"We have a lot of work ahead on Crimea's adaptation and on its joining Russia's legal system, the Russian economy and the social sphere," Putin added.
He appointed Oleg Vladimirovich Bulavintsev as presidential envoy in Crimea, urging both houses of the Russian parliament to facilitate the accession of Crimea and Sevastopol to Russia, Xinhua reported.
"I request deputies of both houses to actively engage in this work and do everything that depends on you to make this process not only seamless, but also beneficial for all Russia and for Crimean residents," he said.
Crimea, which was an autonomous region of Ukraine, held a referendum March 16 in which some 96.6 percent of voters opted to join Russia.
Earlier Friday, speaking at the Russian Security Council in Moscow, the Russian president said that his country would refrain from imposing retaliatory sanctions against the US and from introducing visa rules for Ukraine, ITAR-TASS reported.
“As concerns the first case - the US sanctions - and the second case - Ukraine’s introduction of visa regulations - I think we should still refrain from retaliatory moves,” Putin said.
“First of all, I’ll speak of visa rules with Ukraine. If we introduce visa regulations, millions of innocent Ukrainians who work in Russia to support their families will suffer. We don’t need to do this,” Putin added.
The US, the European Union (EU) and several other countries have imposed sanctions against Russia because of its stance regarding the status of Crimea. The US and the EU have published black lists of Russian and Ukrainian officials, against whom personal sanctions are introduced. In particular, this refers to assets freezing.
Russia has barred a number of US politicians from entering the country and warned that the use of sanctions is a "double-edged sword" that will hit the US back.
Meanwhile the Constitutional Court of Ukraine Friday declared Crimea's proclamation of independence from the country as unconstitutional, the court's press service said.
The Black Sea peninsula's decision to seek independence does not conform to the Constitution which guarantees Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty, Xinhua reported citing the court verdict.
The Crimean parliament Monday passed a declaration of independence from Ukraine after the March 16 referendum.
The declaration appeals to the UN and its member states to recognise its existence and promises to "build its relations with other states on the basis of equality, peace, good neighbourly relations and other universally recognised principles of political, economic and cultural cooperation".
Russia was the first country to recognise Crimea as a sovereign and independent state.
According to another report from Crimea's capital Simferopol, over 70 Ukrainian military facilities on the Crimean peninsula have reportedly hoisted Russian flags as of midnight Thursday, including some navy ships of the Ukrainian Black Sea fleet.
Local media quoted an official of the Republic of Crimea as saying on condition of anonymity that 72 Ukrainian military facilities had hoisted the Russian flags, but the official did not specify the total number of Ukrainian military facilities on the peninsula.
Ukrainian military personnel serving in Crimea would be given the opportunity to choose whether they would stay or leave, Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksenov said last Friday.
In Brussels, EU leaders and interim Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk signed the political provisions of an association agreement Friday.
"This gesture symbolises the importance that both sides attach to this relationship and our joint will to take it further," said European Council President Herman Van Rompuy.
Van Rompuy told Yatsenyuk that the EU expected to sign the agreement's remaining parts soon, not least the economic provisions together with the political ones forming a single instrument.
Yatsenyuk described the agreement as the first step for his country to be a part of the European family.
All 28 EU members' leaders signed the core chapters with Yatsenyuk before the second day's meeting of an EU summit.