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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
MOSCOW/SIMFEROPOL (BosNewsLife)-- Russia and Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula agreed to make Crimea part of Russia, despite Western outrage and threats of more sanctions. Tuesday's announcement came while pro-Russian forces reportedly attacked a Ukrainian military base in Crimea, killing one officer.
Gold plated doors opened at a pompous ceremony in the Kremlin's St. George Hall, where Russian President Vladimir Putin walked to the stage to address both houses of Russia's parliament, at what he called a historic moment for his nation.
The president explained why he agrees that Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula should join join Russia. "We are here for a historic occasion", he said, adding that Crimea's referendum on whether to become part of Russia had been held "in accordance with all democratic procedures and international norms."
President Putin claimed, "the people of Sevastopol and Crimea had turned to Russia to defend their rights and lives." And, "We could not abandon Crimea and its citizens. That would have been treason," he stressed in a fiercely patriotic speech
punctuated by standing ovations.
Soon after, the Russian and Crimean leaders signed a treaty on making Crimea part of Russia, declaring: "In the hearts and minds of people, Crimea has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia."
GIFT TO UKRAINE
That was a reference to 1954 when than Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave Crimea to Ukraine, well before the breakup of the Soviet Union, and independence of Ukraine, in 1991.
Russia's Parliament was expected to begin ratifying the treaty within days, but on Tuesday, March 18, Ukrainian soldiers were seen as occupiers by local officials. An attack by suspected pro-Russian forces on a Ukrainian military base in Simferopol, killed at least one officer, the military said.
Ukraine's interim government has authorised its troops to fire in self defence. The latest developments added to concerns among allies of the NATO military alliance.
In Poland, which borders Ukraine, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the annexation of Crimea by Russia cannot be accepted by the international community.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he regrets that President Putin had chosen, in his words "the route to isolation" over Crimea.
NUCLEAR SUMMIT TALKS
And the White House announced that leaders of the G7 nations would meet next week on the margins of a nuclear security summit at The Hague in the Netherlands to discuss Ukraine.
The interim government of Ukraine and its allies have also condemned the effective annexation of Crimea by Russia, amid worries over religious and ethnic minorities there.
Yet Russian President Putin has made clear he will defy Ukrainian protests and warned his country will retaliate against Western sanctions.
The United States and European Union have already targeted dozens of Russian and Ukrainian officials linked to Crimea's unrest with far reaching assets freezes and travel bans.