Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree recognizing Crimea as a sovereign state, one day after it overwhelmingly approved a referendum to secede from Ukraine, Russian news outlets reported on Monday, citing the Kremlin press service.
The decree, published on the Kremlin's website, took effect immediately, Reuters reports. It says Moscow's recognition of Crimea as independent is based on "the will of the people of Crimea."
On Sunday, more than 93% of voters in Crimea, the autonomous southern peninsula in Ukraine, approved a contentious referendum to withdraw from Kiev's government and pivot to Russia. Western powers had labeled the ballot illegitimate.
Putin's move comes hours after Crimea's parliament made a similar claim and one day before the President's planned address to a joint session of Russian parliament about the rapidly unfolding situation.
On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama quickly responded to the vote by announcing a number of economic sanctions to be imposed on several aides in Putin's inner circle and top political leaders in Crimea.