The Russian State Duma [official website, in Russian] on Thursday voted nearly unanimously to approve Russia's annexation of Crimea despite threats of further sanctions from Western powers. The vote coincided with the arrival of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile, JURIST news archive] in Moscow, who came to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website, JURIST news archive] about the situation in Crimea. The incorporation of the region still requires [AP report] the approval of the upper house and a final endorsement from Putin. The single vote against the annexation came from opposition lawmaker Ilya Ponomarev, who called the move a grave mistake in a blog post [personal website, in Russian] explaining his position. Other lawmakers 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 upper house is expected to ratify the annexation measure on Friday.
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. US President Barack Obama [official website] in March condemned [JURIST report] Russia's military intervention in the region as a violation of international law. Ukraine's interim government in February requested an international arrest warrant [JURIST report] for ousted former president Viktor 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. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] called for a peaceful resolution [JURIST report] to the crisis in Ukraine in February.