Mr. Putin signed the document with the prime minister of Crimea’s regional government, the speaker of Crimea’s parliament, and the mayor of the Crimean city of Sevastopol, where Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based.
Hours later, Russian and Ukrainian news media quoted a Ukrainian military spokesman as saying that Russian forces had attacked Ukrainian troops at a base in Crimea’s main city, Simferopol, killing one serviceman.
Earlier Tuesday, Mr. Putin said told Parliament that Crimea has always been an “inalienable” part of Russia.
He said Sunday’s referendum complied with democratic and international norms.
In his speech, the president insisted Russia has always respected Ukraine’s territorial integrity and neither wants nor needs to “partition” Ukraine.
But he criticized Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s decision to transfer Crimea from Russia to Ukraine in 1954, when both countries were constituent republics of the Soviet Union. When Crimea ended up as part of independent Ukraine after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, he said, Russia felt not simply “robbed,” but “plundered.”
Mr. Putin also said that after the Russian Revolution of 1917, “significant historical territory” of southern Russia, including “present-day southeastern Ukraine,” was included in the Ukrainian republic of the Soviet Union “without regard to the ethnic composition of the population.”
Mr. Putin described last month’s ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, as a coup carried out mainly by “nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites”.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Tuesday that his country’s law-enforcement agencies have “convincing evidence” Russia’s special services are involved in unrest in eastern Ukraine.
Separately, Mr. Yatsenyuk told CNN there is “a strong possibility” of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Also in response to Russia’s moves, Britain suspended military cooperation with Russia in light of the dispute over Crimea.
The move cancels a planned naval exercise and suspends a British Royal Navy ship visit to Russia.
Crimean officials say the final ballot count showed 97 percent of voters favoring independence from Ukraine.
But senior White House officials say they have “concrete evidence” that some ballots in the referendum were pre-marked before the vote.
The Obama administration, the European Union and a host of legal analysts say the Crimean referendum violates the Ukrainian constitution and international law. The U.S. and E.U. have imposed economic and travel sanctions on senior Russian and Ukrainian officials who have supported Crimea’s separation from Ukraine.
“The international community will continue to stand together to oppose any violations of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and continued Russian intervention in Ukraine will only deepen Russia’s diplomatic isolation and exact a greater toll on the Russian economy.”
In New York, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday voiced “deep disappointment” with Sunday’s secession vote in Crimea. A spokesman said Mr. Ban, who has sought to resolve the crisis, fears the vote will further heighten tensions between Kyiv and Moscow.
Also on Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden held talks in Poland aimed at reassuring eastern European allies that they have the support of the United States. His visit took place as Moscow signed a treaty to make the Ukrainian region of Crimea part of the Russian Federation. The tensions and military build-up are unnerving the region.
Standing alongside Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Biden condemned Moscow’s move to make Crimea part of Russia.
“Russia has offered a variety of arguments to justify what is nothing more than a land grab,” he said
Biden landed in Warsaw for a visit designed to reaffirm the United States’ protection for its allies in eastern Europe – while also discussing ways to reduce their dependence on Russian energy.
He also is to meet leaders from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – which used to be part of the Soviet Union.
These nations look primarily to the United States – not Europe – as their security guarantor, says Nicholas Redman, senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
“It’s actually the power that really lies behind NATO, the United States, that’s the one that they are looking to principally and that they need the reassurance from,” he said.
Close to the Arctic Circle, NATO troops are currently training in northern Norway – part of Exercise Cold Response 2014, planned before the Ukraine crisis erupted. The Russian border is just 450 kilometers away. Norwegian General Major Morten Haga Lunde directs the exercise.
“This is one of the biggest live exercises in Europe this year. 16,000 troops, 15 nations,” said Lunde.
Next to the Ukrainian border, Russian troops have been conducting their own exercises. Events in Crimea have unnerved the entire region, Redman says.
“Even a lot of Russia’s closest allies will be very uneasy about this,” said Rodman. “The former Soviet Union, the borders around those countries are historically without precedent. There are a lot of nations that are trapped on the wrong side of lines. There are a lot of contested borders there.”
In response to Russia’s actions, the European Union Monday enacted sanctions against 21 Russian citizens – alongside a United States’ list targeting 11 individuals. British Foreign Secretary William Hague says the measures are indicative of European unity on the issue.
“These are individuals not just in Crimea but in Russia as well, including in the armed forces and in the parliament, people that are associated with the decisions that Russia has made about Crimea,” he said.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry says the sanctions will “lead nowhere.” But Europe does have the power to hurt Russia, says analyst Nicholas Redman.
“At the moment, I think there’s a tension clearly between signaling intent and signaling seriousness, but also leaving enough in reserve on the understanding that things could get worse,” said Rodman.
Regional analysts say that possibility is reigniting tensions between Moscow and the West that have lain dormant for two decades; tensions many had hoped were part of history.