With one sweep of a pen Crimea became part of Russia again.
Ukraine and the West may be outraged but within the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin was much applauded as he and Crimea’s leaders signed the controversial treaty.
Although the document will have to be ratified by Russia’s constitutional court and parliament, a defiant President Putin played to an enthusiastic crowed in Red Square.
“Dear Russian citizens, dear Crimeans, Sevastopol residents, after a hard, long, tiring trip Crimea and Sevastopol are returning to their home port,” he said.
Sunday’s disputed referendum vote on Crimea joining the Russian Federation may have been held under what appears to be Russian military occupation, but many locals support it.
“I am very happy that we are back with Russia,” said one teenager in Simferopol. “It is a big joy to all of us. We will have a good education and all our life ahead of us will be wonderful. I am really happy.”
A young man had a wider vision:
“If the Soviet Unions comes back – that would be really wonderful – Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, even Alaska – we are all brothers, we are all together, we have the same blood.”
While Putin has said he has no plans to seize any other regions of Ukraine, in Kyiv they are not convinced. Some there have described Putin as a threat to world peace.
One distressed elderly lady in Kyiv said she wanted Vladimir Putin to stop mocking the people. “I want him to stay in Russia and govern them and not touch our people and not torture Ukraine.”
“Having approved the referendum at the barrel of a gun I think he shamed himself before the whole world. I think that the whole world will end relations with him,” was one Kyiv resident’s opinion.
And internationally that looks like happening. Tougher sanctions from the US and the EU against Russia are expected along with moves by various countries to slash cooperation with Moscow.
NATO has already called the annexation of Crimea illegal and its members will not recognise it.
But Russia has dismissed it all accusing the West of hypocrisy.
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