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Russian President Vladimir Putin is addressing a joint session of parliament in Moscow about the Crimea crisis, reports SkyNews. Mr Putin is speaking at the Kremlin, where he is urging MPs to back Crimea's attempt to split from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.
Putin earlier formally notified his nation's parliament of Crimea's accession request and signed a draft order on the agreement, the Kremlin said.
His speech coincides with a concert and mass rally, celebrating ties between Russia and Crimea, in the city's Red Square. Vladimir Putin hailed Crimea referendum, saying 96% vote in favor of joining Russia was "extremely convincing figure". He also told Russian Parliament that "in people's heart of hearts, Crimea has always been part of Russia". "We couldn't leave the Crimeans, otherwise it would have been treason", he said days after separation referendum.
He said the vote was held "in full accordance with democratic procedures and international legal norms". "The (Crimean) issue has a vital importance, a historic importance for all of us," he said. Putin also stated, that "no Russian troops entered Crimea - they were already there by agreement", claims Russia kept to 25,000 troop limit. Mr Putin's speech came after he approved a draft bill for Crimea's annexation, and coincided with a mass rally, celebrating ties between Russia and Crimea, in the city's Red Square.
Crimean officials say 97% of voters backed splitting from Ukraine in a controversial referendum on Sunday. The EU and US have declared the vote illegal and imposed sanctions, reports BBC.
Western powers slapped sanctions on more than two dozen Russian officials and their allies in Crimea, while Ukrainian officials vowed they would never accept the territory's annexation by Russia. But the lower house of Russia's parliament, the Duma, shrugged off the sanctions Tuesday, going so far as to draft a statement calling for all its members to be listed, reports CNN.