Russia's lower house votes to bring Crimea into Russia

MOSCOW Thu Mar 20, 2014 11:09am EDT

1 of 5. Russian deputies stand after voting in the Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, in Moscow March 20, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's lower house of parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a treaty to annex Crimea from Ukraine, leaving just one legal obstacle for the Black Sea peninsula to cross before it is formally absorbed by Moscow.

Only one deputy in the State Duma voted against the treaty, and the Federation Council upper house is expected to complete ratification on Friday, signed by President Vladimir Putin and Crimean leaders on Tuesday.

The State Duma chamber stood for the national anthem after the vote, approved by 443 deputies in an almost full chamber .

"From now on, and forever, the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol will be in the Russian Federation," pro-Kremlin lawmaker Leonid Slutsky said in an address before the vote.

The Crimean port city of Sevastopol is home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Russian forces are now in control of the peninsula, which has an ethnic Russian majority and voted for union with Russia on Sunday.

Approval of the treaty in the rubber-stamp parliament had never been in doubt once it was signed by Putin.

"I am certain the passage of these documents will be a turning point in the fate of the multi-ethnic peoples of Crimea and Russia, who are linked by the close ties of historical solidarity," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the Duma after presenting the treaty to the chamber.

Describing annexation of Crimea as needed to protect ethnic Russians there, he said: "To this day, lawlessness continues, and there are daily actions by nationalists, anti-Semites and other extremists on whom the new (Ukrainian) authorities depend."

He added: "The unification of these peoples in one state will promote the well-being and prosperity and serve the interests of Russia."

Russia's moves to annex Crimea have turned a confrontation with Europe and the United States into the biggest crisis in East-West relations since the Cold War.

Earlier on Thursday, Lavrov blamed the crisis on the West, without specifically mentioning the United States.

He said Western nations were trying to "preserve their global leadership and display their exceptionalism rather than striving to be guided by international law".

"The events in Ukraine are a reflection of these approaches," Lavrov said, adding that Moscow would continue to use "political, diplomatic and legal methods" to protect Russians abroad.

"We will insist that countries in which our compatriots have found themselves fully respect their rights and freedoms," he said. Russia accuses the new pro-Western authorities in Kiev of endangering Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine.

SWIFT MOVES ON INTEGRATION

The annexation treaty goes into force once ratified and stipulates that Crimea will be fully integrated into Russia after a transition period ending on January 1.

Russia has begun issuing Russian passports to Crimeans, Interfax quoted Russia's immigration agency chief, Konstantin Romodanovsky, as saying.

Crimean voters overwhelmingly backed joining Russia in a referendum on Sunday but the West says the vote was illegal.

The United States and Europe have imposed sanctions on officials and lawmakers accused of involvement in the annexation, partially suspended military and trade ties, and threatened more punitive measures.

Russian officials are moving swiftly to integrate the region and bolster an economy that has been dependent on Kiev for 85 percent of its electricity, 90 percent of its drinking water and some of its food supplies.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has said Russia will cover Crimea's estimated 55 billion ruble ($1.53 billion) budget deficit with funds from the federal budget.

Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Russia would also ensure Crimea has a constant power supply by providing back-up sources and controlling fuel reserves.

(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Denis Pinchuk, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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Comments (8)
sabrefencer wrote:
looks like its a done deal on the Crimea…now the only question is, does Putin consolidate his win, or does he keep going, into the Ukraine…so far, it has cost a minimal amount of lives…if he goes further, he will have some military opposition and he may risk, finally galvanizing the west , to form a united front and take a serious counteraction…if he holds to the Crimea, he has won hands down, over the west and the childlike protests, from the Obama administration….what will he do?

Mar 20, 2014 8:58am EDT  --  Report as abuse
SamOsborne wrote:
Historically notable about Crimean War No. One is it being much a festival of miscalculation, blunders and mayhem—of which the Charge of the Light Brigade was a jolly good show into the Valley of Death as Alford Lord Tennyson poetically recalled:

Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell,
Rode the six hundred.

However, from those left a bit bloodied but still sitting, standing, lying and breathing, the war did bring to good note Florence Nightingale and her ways of doing better to those that war had personally not done all that good.

If there is a war going to go on someplace some Republican war hawks will certainly not want us to be left out of it—hey, we got all of this very expensive equipment that we just can’t let go to rust and rot and really need to get it spectacularly blow up; plus we certainly wouldn’t want to run low on suffers of PTSD.

Mar 20, 2014 10:32am EDT  --  Report as abuse
SamOsborne wrote:
Historically notable about Crimean War No. One is it being much a festival of miscalculation, blunders and mayhem—of which the Charge of the Light Brigade was a jolly good show into the Valley of Death as Alford Lord Tennyson poetically recalled:

Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell,
Rode the six hundred.

However, from those left a bit bloodied but still sitting, standing, lying and breathing, the war did bring to good note Florence Nightingale and her ways of doing better to those that war had personally not done all that good.

If there is a war going to go on someplace some Republican war hawks will certainly not want us to be left out of it—hey, we got all of this very expensive equipment that we just can’t let go to rust and rot and really need to get it spectacularly blow up; plus we certainly wouldn’t want to run low on suffers of PTSD.

Mar 20, 2014 10:32am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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