Putin takes first steps for Russia to absorb Crimea

Putin takes first steps for Russia to absorb Crimea

Putin takes first steps for Russia to absorb Crimea

President Vladimir Putin today took the first steps to absorb the Ukrainian region of Crimea into Russia, in what would mark the most significant redrawing of Europe's borders since World War II.

Putin officially informed parliament of Crimea's request to join Russia and instructed the national branches of power to approve an agreement for Crimea to become part of the country.

He was due to address both houses of parliament at 1100 GMT after recognising Crimea's independence late yesterday in what was seen as the initial step towards it becoming Russian territory.

The seizure of Crimea by pro-Russian forces following the ousting Ukraine's pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych last month has been condemned around the world and the United States and European Union yesterday issued the first sanctions against a handful of Russian officials.

But such sanctions are unlikely to deter an increasingly defiant Putin who is set to base the justification for the de-facto annexation of Crimea on the weekend referendum in the region where almost 97 per cent voted to split from Ukraine and become part of Russia.

"The president is going to set out his position over the request of Crimea to become part of Russia in line with the result of the referendum," said Sergei Naryshkin, speaker of the State Duma lower house of parliament.

With overwhelming support for the move within Russia itself, tens of thousands of people are expected to hold a rally in central Moscow with the slogan "We are together" after Putin's speech.

Crimea has long held a great hold over the Russian psyche. The lush peninsula has been the base of Kremlin navies since the late 18th century and only became part of Ukraine in 1954 after Soviet leader Nikita Khrushschev transferred it from Russia.