MOSCOW, March 17 (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Monday recognising Crimea as a sovereign state after the Ukrainian region declared itself independent and applied to join Russia following a weekend referendum.
The decree posted on the Kremlin's website appeared to be a first step toward integrating Crimea as a part of the Russian Federation.
The decree, which took effect immediately, says Moscow recognition of Crimea as independent is based on "the will of the people of Crimea".
Crimea's leaders declared a Soviet-style 97-percent result in favour of seceding from Ukraine in a vote condemned as illegal by Kiev and the West. The Crimean parliament formally proposed that Russia "admit the Republic of Crimea as a new subject with the status of a republic".
Putin will address the issue at a special joint session of the Russian parliament on Tuesday.