Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, and the “leaders” of Crimea have signed a bill to absorb the Black Sea peninsula into Russia.
The bill must now be approved by the constitutional court and then ratified by parliament, which is a process which could be completed by the end of the week.
Crimean officials claim that a referendum, held in the predominantly-ethnic-Russian region on Sunday, resulted in 97% of voters supporting a split from Ukraine.
The Ukrainian foreign ministry said: “We do not recognize and never will recognize the so-called independence or the so-called agreement on Crimea joining the Russian Federation.”
Germany and France quickly condemned the Russia-Crimea treaty. The UK suspended “all bilateral military co-operation [with Russia] not subject to treaty obligations”, Foreign Secretary William Hague told Parliament.
The EU and US have declared the vote illegal. Travel bans and asset freezes have been imposed on government officials and other figures in Russia, Crimea and Ukraine, but these have been largely dismissed as ineffectual in Russia.
“The people of Crimea clearly and convincingly expressed their will – they want to be with Russia,” Putin said, and were no longer prepared to put up with the “historical injustice” of being part of Ukraine. The referendum had been legal and its results were “more than convincing”, he said.