Russia completes legal procedure of Crimean annexation

Sevastopol, Republic of Crimea become Russian federal subjects · Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs denies Crimea has been annexed, blames Kiev for the situation · UE and Ukraine sign political package of association agreement · EU-Moldova and EU-Georgia deals expected

After Russian President Vladimir Putin (left picture) has signed the relevant laws, the Russian Federation has today completed the procedure for the annexation of Crimea. Under Russian law, the peninsula is considered as an integral part of Russia starting from Tuesday. On that day, Putin signed an agreement on the "accession of the Republic of Crimea" with the Crimean Prime Minister, the Crimean Parliament Chairman and the President of the city of Sevastopol.

The peninsula is joining the Russian Federation as two different subjects: most of its territory becomes a constituent republic (Crimea), while Sevastopol joins separately as a federal city. Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar have been declared the Republic of Crimea's official languages. Crimeans who want to retain Ukrainian citizenship need to declare their wish within a month. Otherwise they will become Russian citizens.

The annexation process has been completed once Russia's Constitutional Court has ruled that Tuesday's agreement between Crimea and Russia respected the federal Constitution and international law.

Lavrov says Crimea has not been annexed

Western powers and Moscow do not even agree on the exact word that should be used to describe Crimea joining Russia. While the EU and the US say that the peninsula has been annexed, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov argues it has not: "It is an insult to the [Crimean] citizens, encroachment on their inalienable rights to the expression of will that they have fully exercised", he said.

Lavrov has again blamed Kiev for the whole situation: "The present Ukrainian authorities did not leave another chance to Crimea. Russia could not refuse to positively react to brotherly peoples' request", he concluded.

Ukraine signs deal with the EU

On the same day Russia has completed the procedure on Crimea, the European Union has signed the political chapters of an association agreement with Ukraine's new government. Trade issues have been left outside the package, since Brussels wants them to be addressed after May's Ukrainian election.

Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had refused to sign the association agreement with the EU in November.

The EU has also announced that similar agreements with two other former Soviet republics, Moldova and Georgia, will be reached in summer. Both countries are hotspots in the EU-Russia uneasy relation.