Russia’s Putin Signs Treaty to Annex Crimea

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from The Wall Street Journal,

President Says Ukraine Region Is Vital to Russia’s Security.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, second from right, Crimea's Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov, front left, Crimean parliamentary speaker Vladimir Konstantinov, back left, and Sevastopol Mayor Alexei Chaliy shook hands after signing a treaty

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed treaties Tuesday to annex Crimea, even as the killing of the first Ukrainian soldier in the breakaway region raised doubts about how peaceful the takeover would be.

The developments followed a fiery speech by Mr. Putin that leaned heavily on Russia’s past glories, but also offered reassurances that the Kremlin has no further designs on Ukrainian territory.

Only two weeks ago, however, Mr. Putin said Moscow had no plans to annex Crimea. On Tuesday, he moved to do just that.

Even if he stops at Crimea, Mr. Putin’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula would be the first such move in Europe since the end of World War II—upending long-held assumptions about security on the continent and potentially condemning Russia to a period of prolonged isolation.

Ukrainian soldier was killed and another wounded in a shootout as their office in the Crimean capital of Simferopol was stormed by well-armed commandos wearing Russian uniforms that had been stripped of identifying insignia, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry in Kiev said.

In his speech to the Russian parliament and top officials, Mr. Putin dismissed the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe and threats of more to come. He said the West had “crossed the line” by fomenting what he called a putsch in Kiev earlier this year when the elected president fled under pressure from large, prolonged street protests.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he was surprised by the tone of Mr. Putin’s speech.

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