Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website; JURIST news archive] on Friday signed legislation making Crimea officially part of Russia. The bills passed the House almost unanimously despite significant international criticism. Others have called the measure necessary [Reuters report] to protect the ethnic Russians within Crimea, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov [JURIST news archive] telling the Duma that the unification would serve the interests of Russia. The signing comes just one day after US President Barack Obama [official website] announced new sanctions [Guardian report] against Russia. Putin has largely ignored these sanctions in the annexation process. The Crimean Peninsula, historically controlled by the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, has been under control of pro-Russian forces since the ousting [JURIST report] of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich [JURIST news archive] in late February.
The ongoing conflict [BBC timeline] in Ukraine is being called the "biggest crisis between Russia and the West since the Cold War." Earlier this week Putin and representatives of Crimea signed a treaty [JURIST report] that incorporates Crimea into the Russian Federation. Obama had previously condemned [JURIST report] Russia's military intervention in the region as a violation of international law. Some have criticised [JURIST op-ed] this condemnation as "hypoctritical." Ukraine's interim government in February requested an international arrest warrant [JURIST report] for former president Yanukovich, implicating him in the "mass murder" of civilians during protests in Kiev. Earlier that month US Vice President Joe Biden [official profile] threatened targeted sanctions [JURIST report] against Ukrainian officials responsible for violence against civilian protesters.