Russian President Vladimir Putin has formally notified his nation’s parliament of Crimea’s accession request and signed a draft order on the agreement, the Kremlin announced Tuesday.
The move comes a day after Putin signed a decree recognizing Ukraine’s Crimea region as a sovereign state.
In Sunday’s contested referendum in Crimea, 97% of voters cast ballots in favor of divorcing Ukraine and becoming part of Russia. U.S. President Barack Obama dismissed the vote as illegal.
“The international community will continue to stand together to oppose any violations of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and continued Russian military intervention in Ukraine will only deepen Russia’s diplomatic isolation and exact a greater toll on the Russia economy,” Obama said.
Western powers slapped sanctions on more than two dozen Russian officials and their allies in Crimea, while Ukrainian officials vowed they would never accept the territory’s annexation by Russia.
But the lower house of Russia’s parliament, the Duma, shrugged off the sanctions Tuesday, going so far as to draft a statement calling for all its members to be listed.
“Our position is clear. We do not betray our own. We will never betray Russian-speaking citizens or those who live on Crimean territory who have made the decision to be with Russia,” the statement said, according to state news agency ITAR-Tass.
“Today we suggest that the Americans include all the members of the Duma on their sanctions list. Our principles aren’t for sale and we aren’t afraid of sanctions.”
Putin is due to address a joint session of the Russian parliament Tuesday.
His order also said it was considered “practical” to sign the agreement at the “highest possible levels.”
A number of procedural steps must be followed in order to add members to the Russian Federation, including approval from Russia’s Constitutional Court and the Duma, ITAR-Tass said.
But the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, Valentina Matvineko, told state-run Russia-24 TV that the process need not take long, ITAR-Tass reported.
“We shall be acting strictly in compliance with the law. The procedure will not take long. All can be done rather promptly,” she is quoted as saying.
Yatsenyuk: ‘We offer peace’
Russia’s military activities in Crimea and its backing for the region’s secession bid have been condemned by Ukraine’s interim government in Kiev, the European Union and the United States.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and a French delegation have postponed a planned visit to Moscow because of the Ukrainian situation, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
In a televised address Monday night, interim Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov said his government would do “everything possible” to solve the crisis diplomatically, and he praised his citizens for refusing to respond to Russian provocations with violence.
“The Kremlin is afraid of the democratic future which we are building, and this is the reason for their aggression,” Turchynov said. “But this will not be an obstacle to the building of a democratic country.”
But he announced a partial mobilization of his country’s armed forces and said Ukrainians “have to unite in one big family, which is ready to protect its home.”
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said there was “a strong possibility” of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“I still believe that there is only one solution of this crisis, a peaceful one,” he said. “But we offer peace, and Russia offers war.”
The EU sanctions include the top pro-Russian Crimean secessionist leaders, 10 leading Russian lawmakers who have endorsed the annexation of Crimea and three top Russian military commanders.
More measures are expected to follow in the coming days, when EU leaders meet for a summit in Brussels, Belgium, Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Ministeer Linas Linkevicius wrote in a message on Twitter.
The U.S. sanctions list also includes two top Putin advisers and ex-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, whose February ouster in the face of widespread anti-government protests prompted the current crisis.
The protests were first sparked in November by Yanukovych’s decision to turn away from a planned trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
What happens next
A secession would mean transferring banks, public utilities and public transport from Ukraine to Russia in what would undoubtedly be a costly operation.
Crimea is entirely integrated into Ukraine’s mainland economy and infrastructure: 90% of its water, 80% of its electricity and roughly 65% of its gas comes from the rest of country. It also depends heavily on the Ukrainian mainland to balance its books. About 70% of Crimea’s $1.2 billion budget comes directly from Kiev.
In an interview with Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency Tuesday, Crimean Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliev confirmed that Crimea has received proposals from Russia’s energy giant Gazprom on oil and gas development in the region, but did not go into further detail.
Crimean lawmakers have approved legislation to make the Russian ruble the official currency in Crimea alongside the Ukrainian hryvnia, according to a statement posted on the Crimean parliament’s website. The hryvnia remains an official currency until January 1, 2016. The statement did not provide a date for when the ruble would be circulated in the region.
The lawmakers also adopted a resolution stating that on March 30, Crimea will move to Moscow Standard Time.