Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree recognising Crimea as a “sovereign and independent state”, according to Russian officials.
The decree was issued recognising the “expression of the will of the people of Crimea” and follows the Crimean referendum on Sunday, where 97% of voters supported leaving Ukraine and joining Russia.
While the results are not contested, Crimeans loyal to Kiev boycotted the vote in response the the Russian military movements in Crimea in recent weeks, and now face a future under Moscow control.
The Crimean parliament declared independence from Kiev earlier today, and Crimea’s de facto Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov applied for the region to join Russia. Crimea has claimed all Ukrainian state property in the region as property of the new independent state and plans to adopt the Russian rouble as its currency, and adopt Moscow time (GMT+4) by the end of March.
The EU and US imposed economic sanctions on a number of Russian and Ukrainian officials over the referendum. Kiev, Washington, and Brussels have not recognised the result of the referendum, with the EU describing it as “illegal and illegitimate”.
Despite the increased tensions, US President Barack Obama maintains that there is still a path to solve the crisis diplomatically and EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton has said there is still time to avoid a “negative spiral”.