Crimea applies to join Russia after vote

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama said the U.S. and its allies would “never” recognize Crimea’s referendum

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Crimea formally applied to join Russia on Monday after its leaders declared a 97-percent result in favor of seceding from Ukraine in a referendum condemned as illegal by Kiev and the West.

President Barack Obama said on Sunday that U.S. and its allies would “never” recognize Crimea’s referendum.

In a telephone call to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, Obama hinted at possible additional sanctions on Russia and said that the vote had violated the Ukrainian constitution.

“President Obama emphasized that the Crimean ‘referendum,’ which violates the Ukrainian constitution and occurred under duress of Russian military intervention, would never be recognized by the United States and the international community,” the White House said in a statement.

Obama warned that “Russia’s actions were in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and that, in coordination with our European partners, we are prepared to impose additional costs on Russia for its actions.”

In response, Putin told Obama that the referendum was fully legal, “in line with the norms of international law and the U.N. charter.”

For his part, the acting Ukrainian President Oleksander Turchinov called the Crimea referendum a “great farce.”

The vote would mark the most radical redrawing of the map of Europe since Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia.

The White House statement added: “President Obama underscored that there remains a clear path for resolving this crisis diplomatically, in a way that addresses the interests of both Russia and the people of Ukraine.”

“President Obama reiterated that a diplomatic resolution cannot be achieved while Russian military forces continue their incursions into Ukrainian territory and that the large-scale Russian military exercises on Ukraine’s borders only exacerbate the tension.”

Ukraine’s new pro-European leaders and the West have branded the referendum “illegal” because the strategic Black Sea region has been under de facto control of Russian forces since the start of the month.

Also on Monday, the Crimean parliament announced that the Russian ruble will become the second official currency of Crimea and will be circulating alongside the hryvnia until it is withdrawn in 2016.

(With AFP)