Ukraine: Putin approves draft bill for Russia to annex Crimea

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has approved a draft bill for the annexation of Crimea following a referendum in the peninsula that overwhelmingly supported seceding from Ukraine.

In an address to a joint session of Russia’s parliamentary houses scheduled for 11am GMT today, Putin will deliver his position on the hugely contentious Crimean question. His is expected to set the stage for parliament to approve the absorption of Crimea.

The US and the EU retaliated over the referendum – which the west considers illegal – with sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian officials on Monday, a move widely seen as “toothless”.

The White House imposed sanctions against 11 named individuals: seven senior Russian politicians and officials and four Crimea-based separatist leaders accused of undermining the “democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine”.

But the US pointedly avoided targeting Putin or key figures in his inner circle.

The EU imposed sanctions on 21 individuals, including three senior Russian commanders, the prime minister of Crimea, a deputy speaker of the Duma and other senior officials.

There are divisions within Europe over how to respond to Russia, and this is reflected in the fact that action is being taken against fewer than two dozen individuals from an original proposed list of 120…

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Tough response from the EU. Putin must be worried.