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
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine