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Vladimir Putin has begun the process of taking Crimea into the Russian Federation

An agreement is still to be signed but the UK has already said Russia has taken is ‘paving the way for the annexation of part of Ukraine’.

Ukrainian troops with white bands on their sleeves march past an unmarked Russian military vehicle outside a Ukrainian military base in Perevalne, Crimea.
Ukrainian troops with white bands on their sleeves march past an unmarked Russian military vehicle outside a Ukrainian military base in Perevalne, Crimea.
Image: AP Photo/Andrei Udovichenko

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR Putin has backed a draft agreement which would incorporate Crimea into Russian territory.

Putin instructed the organs of power in Russia to approve Crimea becoming part of Russia and said it was “expedient to sign… the agreement at a high level,” according to the Kremlin instruction published on the official legal information website.

The announcement proved an immediate reaction from UK Foreign Secretary William Hague who tweeted:

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Crimea on Sunday voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and seek to join Russia. The West and Ukraine described the referendum which was announced two weeks ago as illegitimate.

The United States and the EU yesterday announced asset freezes and other sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian officials involved in the Crimean crisis. President Barack Obama warned that more would come if Russia didn’t stop interfering in Ukraine.

Russian troops have been occupying the region for more than two weeks.

The decree signed by Putin and posted on the official government website this morning is one of the steps which would formalize the annexation of Crimea. Russia, however, still has a room to back off. The treaty to annex Crimea has to be signed by leaders of Russia and Crimea leader and then ratified by the parliament.

Putin is set to address both houses of the parliament at 3 pm Moscow time (1100 GMT) in a nationally televised speech where he is widely expected to stake Russia’s claim on Crimea.

Crimea had been part of Russia since the 18th century until Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred it to Ukraine in 1954. Both Russians and Crimea’s majority ethnic Russian population see annexation as correcting a historic insult.

Additional reporting by © – AFP 2014 and Rónán Duffy

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