MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin defiantly signed a draft treaty making Crimea part of Russia Tuesday, despite the threat of even more U.S. sanctions against his country.
The document was signed in front of cameras and cheering lawmakers gathered in the Kremlin. It is expected to be ratified later by Russia’s parliament.
Crimea’s new Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov, parliamentary speaker Vladimir Konstantinov and Sevastopol Mayor Oleksiy Chaly also signed the document.
The signing came after an impassioned address from Putin in which he attacked the West over its handling of the Ukraine crisis.
Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and join Russia in Sunday's referendum, which was condemned by the Ukrainian government and its allies as illegitimate.
The U.S. and E.U. responded to the referendum Monday by imposing asset freezes and travel bans on Russian and Ukrainian officials.
Lawmakers are expected to consider Friday whether to ratify the treaty, although this could happen sooner in light of Putin’s rapid efforts to secure Russian control of the peninsula.
Alastair Jamieson and Alexander Smith contributed to this report from London.