Ukraine crisis: Annexation of Crimea by Russia ‘sends chilling message across the continent of Europe’ as Russian troops commit ‘war crime’ firing on Ukrainian base and killing soldier

Signing treaty to absorb peninsula into Russian federation, Putin said Crimea ‘had always been an inseparable part of Russia’

The annexation of Crimea by Vladimir Putin’s Russia has “sent a chilling message across the continent of Europe”, David Cameron has warned.

As the Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said the situation was moving “from a political to a military” conflict, the US dismissed Russia’s actions as “nothing more than a land grab”.

The White House announced that President Barack Obama was inviting the leaders of the G-7 group of nations to a meeting in Europe next week to discuss further action, and Vice President Joe Biden said the crisis would be “a challenge… not for a month or a year [but] for many years to come”.

The escalating divisions between West and East turned into out-and-out violence this afternoon, when apparently Russian-led troops stormed a Ukrainian military base in Simferopol, opening fire to kill one serviceman and wound an officer.

Mr Yatsenyuk told his defence ministry: “Today, Russian soldiers began shooting at Ukrainian servicemen and this is a war crime without any expiry under a statute of limitations.”

Today Mr Putin very publicly met with newly-appointed Crimean leaders to sign a treaty absorbing the peninsula into the Russian federation.

In doing so, he declared that the peninsula “has always been an inseparable part of Russia”.

The UK Prime Minister condemned his actions as being “in flagrant breach of international law and send a chilling message across the continent of Europe”.

Mr Cameron said: “It is completely unacceptable for Russia to use force to change borders, on the basis of a sham referendum held at the barrel of a Russian gun. President Putin should be in no doubt that Russia will face more serious consequences and I will push European leaders to agree further EU measures when we meet on Thursday.

The choice remains for President Putin: take the path of de-escalation or face increasing isolation and tighter sanctions.”

Earlier, Mr Putin said in a televised address to both houses of parliament that Sunday’s referendum in Crimea was held “in full accordance with international law”.

He said Russia would have been “betraying” the people of Crimea if it had not gone in to help in the wake of the deposition of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, but added that Russia had never exceeded the agreed number of troops it was allowed to have in the peninsula under international law.

Officials said the annexation treaty would still require the approval of the Russian parliament, though this is considered a formality.

On concerns of future violations of Ukrainian territory, Mr Putin said that no attempts would be made to divide the country further once Crimea was part of Russia.

Read more: Foreign leaders condemn 'Russia's destabilising actions'
Even the time changes on Crimea's first day under Russian rule
Russia could 'turn the US to radioactive dust' - TV presenter

“Don't believe those who try to frighten you with Russia and who scream that other regions will follow after Crimea,” he said. “We do not want a partition of Ukraine, we do not need this.”

Addressing the West, Mr Putin said it had tried to cheat Russia by turning Sevastopol into a Nato base “on Russia's border”.

And speaking to the people of the US, he asked what made the Crimean referendum so different from the American Declaration of Independence.

Yesterday the Russian leader paved the way for Crimea’s annexation by formally recognising it as an independent state.

This flurry of formal steps, which now seem certain to culminate with the peninsula’s annexation, came after a referendum on Sunday which officials claim saw 97 per cent of Crimean voters backing the split from Ukraine. Crimea referendum and independence

That process has been condemned as illegal by the EU and US, which say voters were subjected to pressures under a military occupation and presented with an inherently unbalanced ballot.

Mr Putin claimed today that the referendum received a turnout of more than 82 per cent - and that this showed that even the majority of the Crimean Tatar population favoured a move to Russia.

This was despite comments reported over the past weeks from representatives of the ethnic group who said they feared repression under Russian rule. Mr Putin said today that such treatment was in the country's past.

Western countries have now imposed sanctions but, amounting to financial restrictions for some 22 individuals, they have been condemned as “pathetic” by senior politicians.

The Tory MP Malcolm Rifkind, who chairs the Intelligence and Security Committee, told the BBC: “All that the international community has done so far is implement visa sanctions and asset freezes on 22 or 23 individuals - that is a pathetic response.”

Read more: Foreign leaders condemn 'Russia's destabilising actions'

Even the time changes on Crimea's first day under Russian rule

Russia could 'turn the US to radioactive dust' - TV presenter

Crimea had been part of Russia since the 18th century until Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred it to Ukraine in 1954. Both Russians and Crimea's majority ethnic Russian population see annexation as correcting a historic insult.

Ukraine's turmoil, which began in November with a wave of protests against President Viktor Yanukovych and accelerated after he fled to Russia in late February, has become Europe's most severe security crisis in years.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected