Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federal Assembly regarding the annexation of Crimea
Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federal Assembly regarding the annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region, at the Kremlin in Moscow, March 18, 2014. Photo by Reuters
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Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty on Tuesday on bringing the Crimea region into Russia, a move that was met with strong condenmnation by the West and by threats of further sanctions against Russia.

Putin's announcement came shortly after delivering a speech before the parliament in which he said that Crimea was and is an integral part of Russia.

Putin and leaders of Crimea and Sevastopol signed an agreement making the two entities new members of the Russian Federation.

"In the hearts and minds of people, Crimea has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia. This commitment, based on truth and justice, was firm, was passed from generation to generation," Putin said.

At the same time, he said in a televised address to the nation Tuesday that Russia doesn't want to move to other regions of Ukraine, saying that "we don't want division of Ukraine."

He also said that Crimea would have three equal languages; Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar.

"It will be right if in Crimea, and I know that Crimeans are supporting this, there will be three equal languages: Russian, Ukrainian and Crimea Tatar," he told a joint session of parliament.

Putin said relations with "brotherly" Ukrainian people will always be of crucial important to Russia. "Russians in Ukraine are fed up with the Ukrainian government," Putin said.

Putin condemned the "so-called" authorities in Ukraine on Tuesday, saying they had stolen power in a coup and had opened the way for "extremists" who would stop at nothing to determine the future of Ukraine.

"Those who were behind recent events, they were ... preparing a coup d'etat, another one. They were planning to seize power, stopping at nothing. Terror, murder, pogroms were used," he told a joint session of parliament, calling them "nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites."

"It is primarily they how are deciding how Ukraine lives today. The so-called Ukrainian authorities introduced a scandalous law on the revision of the language policy, which directly violated the rights of the national minorities."

Putin compared Crimea's move to Ukraine's 1991 declaration of independence from Soviet Union,but stated that he does not seek any further divisions of Ukraine. "We do not want a partition of Ukraine, we do not need this."

Putin thanked China for its support but said about Western partners that they have "crossed the line" over Ukraine, acting unprofessional and irresponsibly. He said he wouldn't seek confrontation with the West but did say that he sees Western attempts to frighten Russia with sanctions as aggression and will retaliate.

He added that U.S. foreign policy is dictated not by international law but by might. "Our Western partners headed by the United States prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun," he told the joint session of parliament. "They have come to believe in their exceptionalism and their sense of being the chosen ones. That they can decide the destinies of the world, that it is only them who can be right."

'No common sense'

The Ukrainian foreign ministry said Ukraine does not recognize the treaty, and added it has "nothing in common with law or democracy or common sense."

"Putin's address very clearly demonstrates just how real the threat is that Russia poses to international security and international security," ministry spokesman Evhen Perebynis said on Twitter.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday called Russia's move a land grab and underscored Washington's commitment to defending the security of its NATO allies on Russia's borders.

Speaking at a news conference in Warsaw after meeting Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Biden said collective security guarantees remained the bedrock of NATO, and that Washington will take additional steps to strengthen the alliance in the future. 

He said the United States stood by its commitment to complete a missile defense system in Poland by 2018. Biden said Russia will face additional measures from the European Union and United States if it goes ahead with a plan to make Crimea part of its territory.

White House spokesman Jay Carney, speaking to reporters, said the United States was preparing to add to those targeted for asset freezes and travel bans under a sanctions order announced on Monday.

"More is coming," Carney said, adding that he did know when the action would be taken. "Work is being done to make further designations" under the sanctions. 

Angela Merkel and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed in a call on Tuesday that Crimea's declaration of independence and Russia's annexation of the peninsula was an "unacceptable blow to the territorial integrity of Ukraine", her office said.

The German chancellor's office said in a statement that both leaders viewed European Union and U.S. sanctions against people implicated in the annexation of Crimea as a consequence of Russia's actions, but they both remained open to dialogue.

The threats of increased sanctions were met by Russian outcries. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Western sanctions were "unacceptable" and "will not remain without consequences", the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

Britain has suspended bilateral military co-operation with Russia that is not subject to treaty obligations, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Tuesday. Hague said this included cancelling a planned French-Russian-UK-United States naval exercise and suspending a proposed Royal Navy ship visit to St Petersburg.

 

Hague also said Britain would be pushing for the strongest possible package of further sanctions against Russia that could be agreed among European leaders when the European Union council meets later this week.  

The Black Sea peninsula on Monday voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and seek to join Russia.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Tuesday that Russia's participation in meetings of the G8 group of nations has been suspended.

The other seven countries had already said they had halted preparations for the G8 summit, which is set for June in the Russian resort of Sochi.

Fabius said Tuesday that the seven leading countries will unite without Russia.

Within hours of the vote on Monday, the Crimean parliament formally asked that Russia "admit the Republic of Crimea as a new subject with the status of a republic."