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Putin cements control of Crimea, shrugs off fallout

Ukraine leader inks EU agreement

Russian President Vladimir Putin completed the annexation of Crimea.

Sergei Chirikov AFP/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin completed the annexation of Crimea.

MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin of Russia on Friday formally completed the annexation of Crimea, signing into law bills passed by Parliament reclaiming the contested province from Ukraine.

Hours earlier, Ukraine’s acting prime minister signed a political association agreement with the European Union. The pact has been bitterly opposed by Moscow, and its rejection in November by the Ukrainian president prompted the uprising that led to his overthrow in February.

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As he cemented Russian control of Crimea, Putin declared a temporary cease-fire in a battle of economic and political sanctions between Moscow and the West.

Olivier Hoslet/Reuters pool

Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, signed a pact with Ukraine’s prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, in Brussels.

The European Union and the United States have frozen assets and limited travel of a number of close associates of Putin for their part in Crimea’s annexation. Putin responded to the moves by barring nine US officials and legislators from Moscow. But on Friday he said he did not see the immediate need for further reprisals, while leaving open the door for more later on.

With evident sarcasm, he also said in televised remarks that he would open an account at a Russian bank targeted by the US measures, even as the first effects on the country’s economy became clear.

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Also Friday, Russia accepted the deployment of an international monitoring team to Ukraine that officials said will have free access to regions throughout the country, the Associated Press reported. But a senior Russian envoy said that doesn’t include the newly annexed Crimea.

The development followed more than a week of stonewalling by Russia of a push by all other members of the 57-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to send such a mission, which they hope will prevent an escalation of tensions in Ukraine’s east and south — regions that have large Russian-speaking populations.

Friday’s decision calls for advance teams to be deployed within 24 hours. The mission, which has a six-month mandate, initially will consist of 100 observers. Up to 400 extra monitors could be deployed if necessary.

The OSCE said the civilian observer team will gather information and report on the security situation ‘‘throughout the country,’’ but did not specifically mention Crimea.

Russia’s stock market opened sharply lower Friday as a second rating agency, Fitch, followed Standard & Poor’s in warning that it would downgrade the country’s credit rating following the punitive US response to Russia’s move to annex Crimea.

Dmitry Serebryakov AFP/Getty Images

Fireworks burst in the Crimean city of Simferopol.

Visa and MasterCard ceased operations with Bank Rossiya, the only corporation targeted Thursday by the new sanctions because it served as a “personal bank for senior officials of the Russian Federation.”

Putin, meeting with members of his national security council, suggested in televised remarks that the government was still coming to grips with the impact of the sanctions, aimed at 20 people, including senior government officials and businessmen who have grown rich since Putin came to power more than 14 years ago.

Some of those attending the meeting were among those affected, including Putin’s chief of staff, Sergei B. Ivanov. “We should distance ourselves from them,” Putin joked, his face showing no emotion. “They compromise us.”

When Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said the ministry was prepared to draft unspecified retaliatory measures, however, Putin demurred. “I think we should refrain from taking steps in response for now,” he said.

Putin was speaking as the upper house of the Russian Parliament, the Federation Council, ratified a treaty signed this week to formally annex Crimea.

The lower house, the Duma, took a similar step Thursday, and Putin made it final by signing the treaty later Friday, ending a breathtaking six days of maneuvers that began with a hastily arranged referendum among Crimeans, who voted overwhelmingly in favor of secession Sunday.

The formalities of Crimea’s annexation followed a stealthy and audacious campaign by Russian special forces to take over military installations, effectively forcing the Ukrainian authorities to capitulate by signaling the withdrawal of their 25,000 troops and dependents from Crimea.

The European agreement signed in Brussels by interim Prime Minister Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk was part of an earlier deal abandoned by Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s president at the time, in favor of a bailout by Russia.

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