Russian lawmakers hail Crimea leaders, set out plans to ratify pact

by Reuters
Wednesday, 19 March 2014 07:41 GMT

MOSCOW, March 19 (Reuters) - Russian lawmakers on Wednesday set out plans to ratify a treaty making Ukraine's Crimea region part of Russia later this week, despite threats of further sanctions from the United States and European Union.

President Vladimir Putin signed the treaty with the Russian-backed leaders of Crimea on Tuesday, pressing ahead with an annexation that Washington, Brussels and Ukraine's new government say is illegal and unacceptable.

"My colleagues will exert the maximum efforts to ratify the agreement by Friday," Sergei Zheleznyak, deputy speaker of the State Duma lower house of parliament, said at a meeting attended by the Crimean leaders.

Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin said: "Brothers and sisters, welcome home to Russia."

The Crimean leaders were greeted as heroes. Bouquets decked the room and deputies wore black-and-orange ribbons symbolising pride in the Russian military, and in particular the Soviet victory in World War Two.

"After 1991, Russia was constantly losing - it lost its territory, its people. And now, for the first time, we are returning our territory and our compatriots," Naryshkin said, referring to the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.

The treaty says Crimea is considered part of Russia from the day of its signing but that it enters into force when it is ratified. Russia also plans to adopt legislation making Crimea one of its constituent regions.

(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Writing by Steve Gutterman, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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