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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Sport
Lewis Hamtilon and pole-sitter Nico Rosberg
SportShould F1's most aggressive driver curb his instincts in title decider?
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin