Putin signs decree recognizing Crimea as sovereign state

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony to present state awards to paralympic atheletes in Sochi March 17, 2014. REUTERS/Michael Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin (RUSSIA - Tags: POLITICS SPORTS OLYMPICS) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (REUTERS)

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Monday recognizing Crimea as a sovereign state after the Ukrainian region declared itself independent and applied to join Russia following a weekend referendum. The decree posted on the Kremlin's website appeared to be a first step toward integrating Crimea as a part of the Russian Federation. The decree, which took effect immediately, says Moscow recognition of Crimea as independent is based on "the will of the people of Crimea". Crimea's leaders declared a Soviet-style 97-percent result in favor of seceding from Ukraine in a vote condemned as illegal by Kiev and the West. The Crimean parliament formally proposed that Russia "admit the Republic of Crimea as a new subject with the status of a republic". Putin will address the issue at a special joint session of the Russian parliament on Tuesday. (Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Timothy Heritage)