Putin Officially Finishes Annexing Crimea

As Ukraine signs European Union trade pact
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2014 7:58 AM CDT
Putin Officially Finishes Annexing Crimea
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with Security Council members in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, March 21, 2014.   (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Presidential Press Service)

Vladimir Putin officially signed the bills completing Russia's annexation of Crimea today, hailing the move as a "remarkable event," the AP reports. It was one of the day's two auspicious signings; earlier, interim Ukrainian President Arseniy Yatsenyuk signed on to what Reuters refers to as a "landmark" political association agreement with the European Union. It was ousted president Viktor Yanukovich's opposition to the pact—in favor of closer ties to Russia—that started the protests that began the crisis.

The deal calls for greater political and economic cooperation, and eventually free trade once a new president is elected in May. Yatsenyuk said the deal indicated that the EU would "speak in one single and strong voice" to support the Ukraine, CNN reports. As for that other signing? "Frankly, I don't care about Russia signing" the annexation bill, Yatsenyuk said. "I care about Ukraine, Ukrainians, and our European future." In other Ukraine news:

  • Ukraine set today as the deadline for the militias patrolling Independence Square in Kiev to turn in the illegal weapons that they openly carry, the New York Times reports. Europe is insisting the groups disarm before any financial aid flows to Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian troops will today join NATO training exercises in Bulgaria, the AP reports. The exercises were planned before the crisis broke, but take on an extra significance now.
  • Vladimir Putin laughed off US sanctions, RT reports. Referring to the targeted lawmakers he derisively said, "Yes, these are those so-called 'polite people in camouflage with guns.' ... I need to avoid these citizens as they are 'compromising the country.'" He also said that he'd open an account at the sanctioned Rossiya bank. But Russia won't issue retaliatory sanctions, he said, and it will keep repairing NATO helicopters in Afghanistan. Apparently retaliatory visa bans are another matter.
(More Ukraine stories.)

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