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The referendum in Crimea followed "all democratic norms" and the region's vote to secede from Ukraine was "convincing," President Vladimir Putin told a special joint session of Russia's parliament on Tuesday.
Putin received a standing ovation from lawmakers as he began his address in the Duma.
"A referendum was held in Crimea on March 16 in full compliance with democratic procedures and international norms," he said.
"More than 82 percent of the electorate took part in the vote. Over 96 percent of them spoke out in favor of reuniting with Russia. These numbers speak for themselves."
He also promised that the rights of Crimea’s minority Muslim Tatars would be respected.
“We have to rehabilitate the Crimean Tatars forever,” he said, adding that Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean Tatar are to be made the three official state languages in the peninsula.
In an apparent acknowledgement of the Stalin-era deportations that saw thousands of Tatars forcibly removed from their homeland, Putin said: “There was indeed a time when the Tatars were treated unfairly."
"There is only one thing I can say here: millions of people of various ethnicities suffered during those repressions, and primarily Russians."
“We respect all of the rights of the residents of Russia,” he said. "I believe we should make all the necessary political and legislative decisions to finalize the rehabilitation of Crimean Tatars, restore them in their rights and clear their good name."
- Alexander Smith and Alastair Jamieson