Putin and Crimean Leaders Sign Treaty Making Peninsula Part of Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Crimea signed a treaty Tuesday to make the Black Sea peninsula part of Russia, just two days after it voted to secede from Ukraine in a referendum the United States and the European Union declared "illegal."
Mr. Putin signed the document with ((Sergei Askyonov,)) the prime minister of Crimea's regional government, ((Vladimir Konstantinov,)) the speaker of Crimea's parliament, and ((Aleksei Chalov,)) the mayor of the Crimean port city of Sevastopol, where Russia's Black Sea fleet is based.
The Kremlin said on its website that Crimea "shall be deemed accepted in the Russian Federation from the date of signing the treaty."
The treaty was signed shortly after Mr. Putin told Russia's parliament in a televised address that Crimea has always been an "inalienable" part of Russia, and a day after he signed a decree recognizing the peninsula as "a sovereign and independent country.
President Putin said Tuesday that the referendum complied with democratic and international norms.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is in Poland Tuesday for talks with regional allies concerned about Russia's military incursion into Crimea. Biden is meeting with the leaders of Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.
China: No Terror Links Among Chinese Passengers on Missing Jet
China said Tuesday none of the Chinese passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines airliner appear to have links to terrorism, as the massive, multinational search for the jet expanded further.
The official Xinhua news agency quoted China's ambassador to Malaysia (Huang Huikang) as saying the determination was made following background checks on all passengers from the mainland. About two-thirds of the 227 passengers on board the jet were Chinese.
The ambassador also said China has begun looking for the Boeing 777 "in the territory along the northern corridor" of the search area.
The plane appears to have flown either north toward Central Asia or south, deeper into the vast Indian Ocean after it mysteriously vanished on March 8. Investigators believe the jet may have been deliberately diverted from its initial flight path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
The New York Times is reporting the plane's intended route appears to have been altered by a computer system mostly likely programmed by someone in the cockpit with knowledge of advanced aircraft systems.
Speaking anonymously, U.S. officials told the Times the development reinforces the theory that foul play is involved and will likely increase scrutiny of the plane's pilot and co-pilot.