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  • The lower house of Russian parliament has approved a treaty to annex Ukraine's Crimea: 

    The State Duma chamber stood for the national anthem after the vote, approved by 443 deputies in an almost full chamber. Only one deputy voted against the treaty. 

    Now the Federation Council upper house needs to complete ratification on Friday and President Vladimir Putin and Crimean leaders have to sign the final document on Tuesday.

    Pro-Kremlin lawmaker Leonid Slutsky said in an address before the vote:

    From now on, and forever, the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol will be in the Russian Federation.

    Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the Duma after presenting the treaty to the chamber:

    I am certain the passage of these documents will be a turning point in the fate of the multi-ethnic peoples of Crimea and Russia, who are linked by the close ties of historical solidarity. 

    The annexation treaty goes into force once ratified and stipulates that Crimea will be fully integrated into Russia after a transition period ending on January 1. [Reuters]
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