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MOSCOW, March 21 President Vladimir Putin signed
legislation on Friday that completed the process of absorbing
Crimea into Russia, defying Western leaders who say the Black
Sea peninsula remains part of Ukraine.
In a Kremlin ceremony shown live on television, Putin signed
a law on ratification of a treaty making Crimea part of Russia,
as well as legislation creating two new Russian administrative
districts: Crimea and the port city of Sevastopol.
"I want to congratulate all citizens of the Russian
Federation - residents of the whole country, Crimea and
Sevastopol - on what is, without any exaggeration, a banner
event," Putin told a small group of senior lawmakers and
officials before signing the documents.
They stood for the national anthem after the signing
ceremony and Putin shook the legislators' hands.
Loyal lawmakers had rushed the legislation through both
houses of parliament after Putin signed the treaty on Tuesday
during a more elaborate Kremlin ceremony anchored by a fiercely
Russia's annexation of Crimea, which has a narrow ethnic
Russian majority and was given to Ukraine by Soviet leader
Nikita Khrushchev 60 years ago, has touched off the biggest
East-West crisis since the Cold War.
Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to join Russia in a referendum
on Sunday that the United States and European Union say was
illegitimate. They say Russia forces took control of the
peninsula before the vote, and have imposed sanctions on senior
Russian officials, lawmakers and allies of Putin.
(Writing by Steve Gutterman, Editing by Timothy Heritage)