Never mind what the West thinks -- the Kremlin says Ukraine's Crimea region is now part of Russia.
A signing ceremony Tuesday between Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister of Crimea and the mayor of the city of Sevastopol made it official, the Kremlin said in a statement. Crimea and Sevastopol, where the Russian Black Sea fleet is based, are now part of the Russian Federation, it said.
Russia's support for Crimea's secession bid, which follows a contested referendum on Sunday, has been condemned by Ukraine's interim government in Kiev, the European Union and the United States.
Ukraine's interim President Oleksandr Turchynov told reporters that Putin is "mimicking the fascists of the last century" by annexing Crimea.
"The political leadership of Russia will have to answer before the whole world for crimes they are committing today in our country," Turchynov said.
And Interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called the annexation "a robbery on an international scale," warning that the standoff was transforming "from political to the military form." Ukraine's defense ministry said a Ukrainian military officer was wounded at a base in the Crimea when masked gunmen opened fire, and Yatsenyuk said Russian forces were to blame.
But Putin hailed Sunday's vote in an address to a joint session of Parliament on Tuesday, saying the nearly 97% of its residents who voted to join Russia was "an extremely convincing figure."
In an hour-long speech, he argued that the vote had been entirely legitimate and stressed the historical and cultural ties between Russia and Crimea.
"In our hearts we know Crimea has always been an inalienable part of Russia," he said.
Crimea is an autonomous region within Ukraine with a majority Russian-speaking population. It has its own parliament, but the Ukrainian government had veto power over its actions.
With political instability and demonstrations rocking Ukraine in the past several months, President Viktor Yanukovych was pushed out of office and observers charged that Russia saw its chance to annex the strategic territory. The hastily called referendum Sunday resulted in 96.7% of the region's voters saying they wanted to become part of Russia, according to the Crimean Electoral Commission.
Putin denied that Russia had been militarily involved in Crimea, despite what has been stated by authorities in the Ukraine capital and international observers. "We have not used our armed forces in Crimea," Putin said.
18 March 2014
Let's face it, no one can make them give it back.
Posted by Brant at 17:05