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Defiant Putin moves closer to annexing Crimea despite Obama threats
Russian President Vladimir Putin took more steps today toward annexing Crimea, despite warnings from President Obama that doing so would incur further U.S. sanctions.
In a decree, Putin notified his country's legislature about Crimeas proposal to join the Russian Federation and he strongly urged lawmakers to pass it quickly.
Lawmakers are expected to take up the measure Friday, according to Russias Interfax news agency.
Putin plans to address lawmakers later today and is expected to discuss Crimea and Ukraine, and respond to U.S. and European sanctions.
The Russian leaders march toward annexing Crimea appears to be a sign that U.S. and European sanctions on a handful of Russian officials Monday had little effect. Many of the sanctioned individuals responded with a mix of pride and mocking indifference. A joint proposal from all of the parties in the Russian parliament today asked President Obama to sanction them as well.
U.S. officials say that if Russia does allow Crimea to join Russia, it is prepared to increase sanctions and can ratchet them up again if Russia continues to interfere in Ukrainian affairs.
Several more steps must still be taken before Crimea is allowed to join Russia officially, including a review by the Constitutional Court, but those are considered formalities if the Kremlin has decided to go ahead with annexation.
Already, authorities in Crimea have taken steps to ease their way into Russian life. They have voted to move their clocks to Moscow time two hours ahead by the end of the month and will adopt the Russian ruble as a second currency within a few months.
Emboldened by the Crimean example, the breakaway region of Transnistria, officially part of Moldova, is also considering a referendum to join Russia, according to the Russian newspaper Vedomosti.