Crimea celebrates as region joins Russia

Crimea celebrates as region joins Russia
Sat Mar 22, 2014 16:45:15

Thousands of people have celebrated in the Crimean capital of Simferopol after the region broke away from Ukraine and has been formally accepted into the Russian Federation.

Celebrations continued into early Saturday, hours after the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, signed a treaty making Crimea part of Russia. Fireworks burst in the sky in Simferopol, as the Crimean prime minister, Sergei Aksyonov, addressed the crowds.

"I am sure that we all together will live in a new Crimea happily, we will live the way our fathers and grandfathers wanted us to live as we dreamed. This is fair and we deserved it. Happy holiday, dear friends," he said.

The celebrations were timed to coincide with a similar event taking place in Moscow, where fireworks also lit up the skies.

During his visit to Ukraine on Saturday, Germany's foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier denounced Russia's "attempt to splinter Europe" for its action in Crimea.

"The referendum in Crimea... is a violation of international law and an attempt to splinter Europe," Steinmeier said after meeting Ukraine's acting president Oleksandr Turchynov.

As this developed, an international team of monitors is being sent in to Ukraine's eastern region, where tensions continue to brew between supporters and opponents of Russia.

The team from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe will begin its work after Russia dropped its objections. But there is disagreement on whether they will be allowed in to Crimea itself.

A military transition is also underway as Russia takes over bases across the Black Sea Peninsula, raising its national flag as Ukrainian soldiers departed on their trucks. 

On Friday, all 155 senators present in Moscow's upper house of parliament voted in favor of the treaty of accession.

In Brussels, the acting prime minister of Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, signed an association agreement with the EU as the split between the two former allies grew deeper.

"This is a historic day for my country, and we believe this is a historic day for the entire Europe," Yatsenyuk declared after signing the agreement. "We want to be a part of a big European family."

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy also hailed the deal saying that it "recognizes the aspirations of the people of Ukraine to live in a country governed by values, by democracy and the rule of law." 

BA/BA

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