Putin declares Crimea 'sovereign and independent'

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Putin declares Crimea 'sovereign and independent'
Russia's President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federation Council in Moscow's Kremlin on Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Putin defended Russia?s move to annex Crimea, saying that the rights of ethnic Russians have been abused by the Ukrainian government. He pointed at the example of Kosovo?s independence bid supported by the West, and said that Crimea?s secession from Ukraine repeated Ukraine?s own secession from the Soviet Union in 1991. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, second right, Speaker of Crimean legislature Vladimir Konstantinov, second left, Crimean Premier Sergei Aksyonov, left, and Sevastopol mayor Alexei Chalyi, right, shake hands after signing a treaty for Crimea to join Russia in the Kremlin in Moscow, Tuesday, March 18, 2014. President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday signed a treaty to incorporate Crimea into Russia, describing the move as the restoration of historic injustice and a necessary response to what he called the Western encroachment on Russia?s vital interests. (AP Photo/Sergei Ilnitsky, Pool)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federation Council in Moscow's Kremlin on Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Putin defended Russia?s move to annex Crimea, saying that the rights of ethnic Russians have been abused by the Ukrainian government. He pointed at the example of Kosovo?s independence bid supported by the West, and said that Crimea?s secession from Ukraine repeated Ukraine?s own secession from the Soviet Union in 1991. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
ALTERNATIVE CROP Russian President Vladimir Putin signs a treaty for Crimea to join Russia during a signing ceremony after addressing the Federal Assembly in the Kremlin in Moscow, Tuesday, March 18, 2014. President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday signed a treaty to incorporate Crimea into Russia, describing the move as the restoration of historic injustice and a necessary response to what he called the Western encroachment on Russia?s vital interests.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, second right, shakes hands with Crimean leaders, Speaker of Crimean legislature Vladimir Konstantinov, second left, Crimean Premier Sergei Aksyonov, left, and Sevastopol mayor Alexei Chalyi, right, after signing a treaty for Crimea to join Russia in the Kremlin in Moscow, Tuesday, March 18, 2014. President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday signed a treaty to incorporate Crimea into Russia, describing the move as the restoration of historic injustice and a necessary response to what he called the Western encroachment on Russia?s vital interests. (AP Photo/Sergei Ilnitsky, Pool)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, second right, and Crimean leaders, Speaker of Crimean legislature Vladimir Konstantinov, second left, Crimean Premier Sergei Aksyonov, left, and Sevastopol mayor Alexei Chalyi, right, sign a treaty for Crimea to join Russia in the Kremlin in Moscow, Tuesday, March 18, 2014. President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday signed a treaty to incorporate Crimea into Russia, describing the move as the restoration of historic injustice and a necessary response to what he called the Western encroachment on Russia?s vital interests. (AP Photo/Sergei Ilnitsky, Pool)
A boy holds a Russian flag as he gathers with others at a square to watch a televised address by Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Federation Council, in Sevastopol, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Putin on Tuesday fiercely defended Russia's move to annex Crimea saying Crimea's vote on Sunday to join Russia was in line with "democratic norms and international law." (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)
Russian President Vladimir Putin drinks water as he addresses the Federal Assembly in the Kremlin in Moscow, Tuesday, March 18, 2014. With a sweep of his pen, President Vladimir Putin added Crimea to the map of Russia on Tuesday, describing the move as correcting past injustice and a response to what he called Western encroachment upon Russia's vital interests. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, second right, Speaker of Crimean parliament Vladimir Konstantinov, second left, Crimean Premier Sergei Aksyonov, left, and Sevastopol mayor Alexei Chalyi, right, sit during a signing ceremony for the treaty to join Crimea with Russia in the Kremlin, Moscow, Tuesday, March 18, 2014. President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday signed a treaty to incorporate Crimea into Russia, describing the move as the restoration of historic injustice and a necessary response to what he called the Western encroachment on Russia?s vital interests. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, Speaker of Crimean legislature Vladimir Konstantinov, center, and Crimean Premier Sergei Aksyonov stand after signing a treaty to incorporate Crimea into Russia in the Kremlin in Moscow, Tuesday, March 18, 2014. President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday signed a treaty to incorporate Crimea into Russia, describing the move as the restoration of historic injustice and a necessary response to what he called the Western encroachment on Russia?s vital interests. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Crimean Premier Sergei Aksyonov, right, receives congratulations from Chechnya's regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov, left, and State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin, center, after signing a treaty for Crimea to join Russia in the Kremlin in Moscow, Tuesday, March 18, 2014. President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday signed a treaty to incorporate Crimea into Russia, describing the move as the restoration of historic injustice and a necessary response to what he called the Western encroachment on Russia?s vital interests. (AP Photo/Sergei Ilnitsky, Pool)
Russian President Vladimir Putin enters the hall to address the Federal Assembly in the Kremlin in Moscow, Tuesday, March 18, 2014. President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday signed a treaty to incorporate Crimea into Russia, describing the move as the restoration of historic injustice and a necessary response to what he called the Western encroachment on Russia's vital interests. (AP Photo/Sergei Ilnitsky, pool)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federation Council in Moscow's Kremlin on Tuesday, March 18, 2014. President Vladimir Putin defended Russia?s move to annex Crimea, saying that the rights of ethnic Russians have been abused by the Ukrainian government. He pointed at the example of Kosovo?s independence bid supported by the West, and said that Crimea?s secession from Ukraine repeated Ukraine?s own secession from the Soviet Union in 1991. (AP Photo/Sergei Ilnitsky, pool)
An elderly woman holding a calendar depicting Soviet leader Josef Stalin celebrates after watching a broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin's speech on Crimea in Sevastopol, Crimea, Tuesday, March 18, 2014 as thousands of pro-Russian people gathered to watch the address . Fiercely defending Russia's move to annex Crimea, Putin said Russia had to respond to what he described as a western plot to take Ukraine into its influence. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
People cast shadows as they wave flags as they gather at a square to watch a televised address by Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Federation Council, in Sevastopol, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Putin on Tuesday fiercely defended Russia's move to annex Crimea saying Crimea's vote on Sunday to join Russia was in line with "democratic norms and international law." (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)
People gather at a square to watch a televised address by Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Federation Council, in Sevastopol, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Putin on Tuesday fiercely defended Russia's move to annex Crimea saying Crimea's vote on Sunday to join Russia was in line with "democratic norms and international law." (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)
SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - MARCH 17: Couples dance in Lenin Square on March 17, 2014 in Simferopol, Ukraine. Voters on the autonomous Ukrainian peninsular of Crimea voted overwhelmingly yesterday to secede from their country and join Russia. Crimea will seek to adopt the Russian Ruble as its official currency. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
People hold their Ukrainian national flags and a poster featuring Russian President Vladimir Putin and reading 'Stop Putin' as they demonstrate in front of the Russian Ambassy in Berlin on March 17, 2014. Crimea declared independence on March 17 and applied to join Russia while the Kremlin braced for sanctions after the flashpoint peninsula voted to leave Ukraine in a ballot that will likely fan the worst East-West tensions since the Cold War. AFP PHOTO / DPA / KAY NIETFELD +++ GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read KAY NIETFELD/AFP/Getty Images)
SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - MARCH 17: In this photo illustration, Ukrainian historical figures are viewed on Ukrainian bank notes on March 17, 2014 in Simferopol, Ukraine. Voters on the autonomous Ukrainian peninsular of Crimea voted overwhelmingly yesterday to secede from their country and join Russia. Crimea will seek to adopt the Russian Ruble as its official currency. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - MARCH 17: Couples dance in Lenin Square on March 17, 2014 in Simferopol, Ukraine. Voters on the autonomous Ukrainian peninsular of Crimea voted overwhelmingly yesterday to secede from their country and join Russia. Crimea will seek to adopt the Russian Ruble as its official currency. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - MARCH 17: A woman walks by grafitti on a wall on March 17, 2014 in Simferopol, Ukraine. Voters on the autonomous Ukrainian peninsular of Crimea voted overwhelmingly yesterday to secede from their country and join Russia. Crimea will seek to adopt the Russian Ruble as its official currency. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, patrol outside an Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye on March 17, 2014. The United States and Europe aimed sanctions directly at Vladmir Putin's inner circle Monday to punish Russia's move to annex Crimea, deepening the worst East-West rift since the Cold War. The move came hours after the Ukrainian regime voted to join Russia in a referendum the West deems illegitimate and as Crimea embarked on the next political steps to embrace Kremlin rule. AFP PHOTO/ VASILY MAXIMOV (Photo credit should read VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, patrol outside an Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye on March 17, 2014. The United States and Europe aimed sanctions directly at Vladmir Putin's inner circle Monday to punish Russia's move to annex Crimea, deepening the worst East-West rift since the Cold War. The move came hours after the Ukrainian regime voted to join Russia in a referendum the West deems illegitimate and as Crimea embarked on the next political steps to embrace Kremlin rule. AFP PHOTO/ VASILY MAXIMOV (Photo credit should read VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Cossacks, pro-Russian activists, march to take part in a rally outside the regional state administration building in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on March 17, 2014. The United States on March 17 imposed financial sanctions on seven top Russian government officials and lawmakers to punish Russia's incursion into Crimea. The list of officials who will see any property, assets and interests blocked in the United States includes Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister, and several senior members of the Duma and advisors to President Vladimir Putin. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KHUDOTEPLY (Photo credit should read Alexander KHUDOTEPLY/AFP/Getty Images)
A pro-Russian activist holds a flag during a rally as police forces stand guard in front of the regional state administration building in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on March 17, 2014. The United States on March 17 imposed financial sanctions on seven top Russian government officials and lawmakers to punish Russia's incursion into Crimea. The list of officials who will see any property, assets and interests blocked in the United States includes Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister, and several senior members of the Duma and advisors to President Vladimir Putin. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KHUDOTEPLY (Photo credit should read Alexander KHUDOTEPLY/AFP/Getty Images)
PEREVEVALNE, UKRAINE - MARCH 17: Armed soldiers without identifying insignia keep guard outside of a Ukrainian military base in the town of Perevevalne near the Crimean city of Simferopol on March 17, 2014 in Perevevalne, Ukraine. Voters on the autonomous Ukrainian peninsular of Crimea voted overwhelmingly yesterday to secede from their country and join Russia. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Pro-Russian activists stage a rally as police forces stand guard in front of the regional state administration building in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on March 17, 2014. The United States on March 17 imposed financial sanctions on seven top Russian government officials and lawmakers to punish Russia's incursion into Crimea. The list of officials who will see any property, assets and interests blocked in the United States includes Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister, and several senior members of the Duma and advisors to President Vladimir Putin. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KHUDOTEPLY (Photo credit should read Alexander KHUDOTEPLY/AFP/Getty Images)
Pro-Russian activists stage a rally as police forces stand guard in front of the regional state administration building in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on March 17, 2014. The United States on March 17 imposed financial sanctions on seven top Russian government officials and lawmakers to punish Russia's incursion into Crimea. The list of officials who will see any property, assets and interests blocked in the United States includes Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister, and several senior members of the Duma and advisors to President Vladimir Putin. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KHUDOTEPLY (Photo credit should read Alexander KHUDOTEPLY/AFP/Getty Images)
Pro-Russian activists stage a rally as police forces stand guard in front of the regional state administration building in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on March 17, 2014. The United States on March 17 imposed financial sanctions on seven top Russian government officials and lawmakers to punish Russia's incursion into Crimea. The list of officials who will see any property, assets and interests blocked in the United States includes Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister, and several senior members of the Duma and advisors to President Vladimir Putin. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KHUDOTEPLY (Photo credit should read Alexander KHUDOTEPLY/AFP/Getty Images)
PEREVEVALNE, UKRAINE - MARCH 17: A man fixes the Crimean flag near groups of armed soldiers without identifying insignia who are keep guard outside of a Ukrainian military base in the town of Perevevalne near the Crimean city of Simferopol on March 17, 2014 in Perevevalne, Ukraine. Voters on the autonomous Ukrainian peninsular of Crimea voted overwhelmingly yesterday to secede from their country and join Russia. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
PEREVEVALNE, UKRAINE - MARCH 17: Armed soldiers without identifying insignia keep guard outside of a Ukrainian military base in the town of Perevevalne near the Crimean city of Simferopol on March 17, 2014 in Perevevalne, Ukraine. Voters on the autonomous Ukrainian peninsular of Crimea voted overwhelmingly yesterday to secede from their country and join Russia. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
PEREVEVALNE, UKRAINE - MARCH 17: Armed soldiers without identifying insignia keep guard outside of a Ukrainian military base in the town of Perevevalne near the Crimean city of Simferopol on March 17, 2014 in Perevevalne, Ukraine. Voters on the autonomous Ukrainian peninsular of Crimea voted overwhelmingly yesterday to secede from their country and join Russia. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Monday recognizing Crimea as a "sovereign and independent country," hours after the strategic Black Sea peninsula declared it had broken from Ukraine following a weekend referendum.

The moves triggered the toughest Western sanctions against Russia since the Cold War - with Washington and the European Union retaliating with asset freezes and travel bans and U.S. President Barack Obama vowing to "increase the cost" if the Kremlin does not back down.

Ukraine's turmoil has become Europe's most severe security crisis in years and tensions have been high since Russian troops seized control of Crimea, which has now decided to merge with Russia. Russian troops are also massed near the border with Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine's acting president raised tensions on the ground by calling for the activation of some 20,000 military reservists and volunteers across the country and for the mobilization of another 20,000 in the recently formed national guard.

In the Crimean capital of Simferopol, ethnic Russians applauded the Sunday referendum that overwhelmingly called for secession and for joining Russia. Masked men in body armor blocked access for most journalists to the parliament session that declared independence, but the city otherwise appeared to go about its business normally.

The U.S., EU and Ukraine's new government do not recognize the referendum held Sunday in Crimea, which was called hastily as Ukraine's political crisis deepened with the ouster of pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych following months of protests and sporadic bloodshed. In addition to calling the vote itself illegal, the Obama administration said there were "massive anomalies" in balloting that returned a 97 percent "yes" vote for joining Russia.

Obama warned that Russia could face more financial punishment.

"If Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose further sanctions," Obama said.

One of the top Russian officials hit by sanctions mocked Obama.

"Comrade Obama, what should those who have neither accounts nor property abroad do? Have you not thought about it?" Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted. "I think the decree of the President of the United States was written by some joker."

Moscow considers the vote legitimate and Putin was to address both houses of parliament Tuesday on the Crimean situation.

In Kiev, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov vowed that Ukraine will not give up Crimea.

"We are ready for negotiations, but we will never resign ourselves to the annexation of our land," a somber-faced Turchynov said in a televised address to the nation. "We will do everything in order to avoid war and the loss of human lives. We will be doing everything to solve the conflict through diplomatic means. But the military threat to our state is real."

The Crimean referendum could also encourage rising pro-Russian sentiment in Ukraine's east and lead to further divisions in this nation of 46 million.

A delegation of Crimean lawmakers was set to travel to Moscow on Monday for negotiations on how to proceed. Russian lawmakers have suggested that formally annexing Crimea is almost certain - with one saying it could happen within days.

"We came back home to Mother Russia. We came back home, Russia is our home," said Nikolay Drozdenko, a resident in Sevastopol, the key Crimean port where Russia leases a naval base from Ukraine.

The Crimean parliament declared that all Ukrainian state property on the peninsula will be nationalized and become the property of the Crimean Republic. It gave no further details. Lawmakers also asked the United Nations and other nations to recognize it and began work on setting up a central bank with $30 million in support from Russia.

The United States announced sanctions against seven Russian officials, including Rogozin, Putin's close ally Valentina Matvienko who is speaker of the upper house of parliament and Vladislav Surkov, one of Putin's top ideological aides. The Treasury Department also targeted Yanukovych, Crimean leader Sergei Aksyonov and two other top figures.

The EU's foreign ministers slapped travel bans and asset freezes against 21 officials from Russia and Ukraine following Crimea's referendum. The ministers did not immediately release the names and nationalities of those targeted by the sanctions.

"We need to show solidarity with Ukraine and therefore Russia leaves us no choice," Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told reporters in Brussels before the vote. "The `Anschluss' of Crimea cannot rest without a response from the international community."

He was referring to Nazi Germany's forceful annexation of Austria.

But markets appeared to signal that the Western sanctions lacked punch - with bourses both in Russia and Europe rising sharply on relief that they won't hit trade of business ties.

"So far the sanctions seem fairly toothless and much less severe than had been expected last week," said Kathleen Brooks, research director at Forex.com. "From the market's perspective, the biggest risk was that the referendum would trigger tough sanctions against Russia that could lead to another Cold War."

Moscow, meanwhile, called on Ukraine to become a federal state as a way of resolving the polarization between Ukraine's western regions - which favor closer ties with the 28-nation EU - and its eastern areas, which have long ties to Russia.

In a statement Monday, Russia's Foreign Ministry urged Ukraine's parliament to call a constitutional assembly that could draft a new constitution to make the country federal, handing more power to its regions. It also said country should adopt a "neutral political and military status," a demand reflecting Moscow's concern about the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO and possibly integrating closer politically and economically with the EU.

Russia is also pushing for Russian to become one of Ukraine's state languages alongside Ukrainian.

In Kiev, Ukraine's new government dismissed Russia's proposal Monday as unacceptable, saying it "looks like an ultimatum."

The new government in Kiev was established after pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia last month after three months of protests culminated in deadly clashes.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya visited NATO headquarters in Brussels to request technical equipment to deal with the secession of Crimea and the Russian incursion there.

NATO said in a statement that the alliance was determined to boost its cooperation with Ukraine, including "increased ties with Ukraine's political and military leadership."
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