Russian President Vladimir Putin Signs Bills Completing The Annexation Of Crimea
President Vladimir Putin completed the annexation of Crimea on Friday, signing the peninsula into Russia at nearly the same time his Ukrainian counterpart sealed a deal pulling his country closer into Europe's orbit.
Putin said he saw no need to further retaliate against U.S. sanctions, a newly conciliatory tone reflecting an apparent attempt to contain one of the worst crises in Russia's relations with the West since the Cold War.
Putin hailed the incorporation of Crimea into Russia as a "remarkable event" before he signed the parliament bills into law in the Kremlin on Friday. He ordered fireworks in Moscow and Crimea.
At nearly the same time, in a ceremony in Brussels, Ukraine's new prime minister pulled his nation closer to Europe by signing a political association agreement with the European Union - the same deal that touched off the political crisis that drove President Viktor Yanukovych from office and sent him fleeing to Russia.
Russia rushed the annexation of the strategic Black Sea peninsula after Sunday's hastily called referendum, in which its residents overwhelmingly backed breaking off from Ukraine and joining Russia. Ukraine and the West have rejected the vote, held two weeks after Russian troops had taken over Crimea.
At Ukrainian bases on the peninsula, troops hesitated, besieged by Russian forces and awaiting orders. Russia claimed some had switched sides and agreed to join the Russian military.
The U.S. and EU have responded to the crisis by slapping sanctions on Russia.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered a second round of sanctions against nearly two dozen members of Putin's inner circle and a major bank supporting them.
Moscow retaliated on Thursday by banning nine U.S. officials and lawmakers from entering Russia, but Putin indicated that Russia would likely refrain from curtailing cooperation in areas such as Afghanistan. Moscow appears to hope to limit the damage from the latest U.S. and EU sanctions and avoid further Western blows.
The latest U.S. sanctions, which targeted Putin's chief of staff along with other senior Kremlin aides and four businessmen considered to be his lifelong friends, dealt a painful blow to Russia. Obama also warned that more sweeping penalties against Russia's economy, including its robust energy sector, could follow.