Russia completes Crimea annexation

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A Ukrainian airman carries belongings as he leaves the Belbek air base, outside Sevastopol, Crimea, Friday, March 21, 2014. The base commander Col. Yuliy Mamchur said he was asked by the Russian military to turn over the base but is unwilling to do so until he receives orders from the Ukrainian defense ministry.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

A Ukrainian airman carries belongings as he leaves the Belbek air base, outside Sevastopol, Crimea, Friday, March 21, 2014. The base commander Col. Yuliy Mamchur said he was asked by the Russian military to turn over the base but is unwilling to do so until he receives orders from the Ukrainian defense ministry.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Ukrainian airmen place sand bags around an anti-aircraft gun at the Belbek air base, outside Sevastopol, Crimea, Friday, March 21, 2014. The base commander Col. Yuliy Mamchur said he was asked by the Russian military to turn over the base but is unwilling to do so until he receives orders from the Ukrainian defense ministry. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Ukrainian airmen carry a washing machine while removing their belongings from the Belbek air base, outside Sevastopol, Crimea, Friday, March 21, 2014. The base commander Col. Yuliy Mamchur said he was asked by the Russian military to turn over the base but is unwilling to do so until he receives orders from the Ukrainian defense ministry. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

A Ukrainian airman carries a TV set as he leaves the Belbek air base, outside Sevastopol, Crimea, Friday, March 21, 2014. The base commander Col. Yuliy Mamchur said he was asked by the Russian military to turn over the base but is unwilling to do so until he receives orders from the Ukrainian defense ministry. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Ukrainian border guards perform an exercise in anti-air attack during training at a military camp in the village of Alekseyevka on the Ukrainian-Russian border, eastern Ukraine, Friday, March 21, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a resolution approved by parliament to annex Crimea. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

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MOSCOW (AP) — President Vladimir Putin completed the annexation of Crimea on Friday, signing the peninsula into Russia at nearly the same time his Ukrainian counterpart sealed a deal pulling his country closer into Europe’s orbit.

Putin said he saw no need to further retaliate against U.S. sanctions, a newly conciliatory tone reflecting an apparent attempt to contain one of the worst crises in Russia’s relations with the West since the Cold War.

Putin hailed the incorporation of Crimea into Russia as a “remarkable event” before he signed the parliament bills into law in the Kremlin on Friday. He ordered fireworks in Moscow and Crimea.

At nearly the same time, in a ceremony in Brussels, Ukraine’s new prime minister pulled his nation closer to Europe by signing a political association agreement with the European Union — the same deal that touched off the political crisis that drove President Viktor Yanukovych from office and sent him fleeing to Russia.

Russia rushed the annexation of the strategic Black Sea peninsula after Sunday’s hastily called referendum, in which its residents overwhelmingly backed breaking off from Ukraine and joining Russia. Ukraine and the West have rejected the vote, held two weeks after Russian troops had taken over Crimea.

At Ukrainian bases on the peninsula, troops hesitated, besieged by Russian forces and awaiting orders. Russia claimed some had switched sides and agreed to join the Russian military.

The U.S. and EU have responded to the crisis by slapping sanctions on Russia.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered a second round of sanctions against nearly two dozen members of Putin’s inner circle and a major bank supporting them.

Moscow retaliated on Thursday by banning nine U.S. officials and lawmakers from entering Russia, but Putin indicated that Russia would likely refrain from curtailing cooperation in areas such as Afghanistan. Moscow appears to hope to limit the damage from the latest U.S. and EU sanctions and avoid further Western blows.

The latest U.S. sanctions, which targeted Putin’s chief of staff along with other senior Kremlin aides and four businessmen considered to be his lifelong friends, dealt a painful blow to Russia. Obama also warned that more sweeping penalties against Russia’s economy, including its robust energy sector, could follow.

International rating agencies downgraded Russia’s outlook, and Russian stocks tumbled Friday.

Putin tried to play down the sanctions’ toll on Russia in televised remarks at Friday’s session of the presidential Security Council, saying that “we should keep our distance from those people who compromise us,” a jocular reference to the officials on the sanctions list, some of whom attended the meeting.

He added sardonically that he would open an account to keep his salary in the targeted Bank Rossiya, a private bank that is owned by Yuri Kovalchuk, who is considered to be Putin’s longtime friend and banker. With about $10 billion in assets, Rossiya ranks as the 17th largest bank in Russia and maintains numerous ties to banks in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

At the same time, Putin said that that he sees no immediate need for further Russian retaliation to the U.S. sanctions, a stance that reflected an apparent hope to limit further damage to ties with the West that have plummeted to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.

“We must refrain from retaliatory steps for now,” Putin said.

Russia is expected to play a major role in the planned withdrawal of U.S. and other NATO forces from Afghanistan later this year by providing transit corridors via its territory, and Putin seemed to indicate that the Kremlin at this stage has no intention to shut the route in response to U.S. and EU sanctions.

Moscow also appeared to be warming to the deployment of monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the top trans-Atlantic security and rights group which it has blocked so far.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia would welcome sending the OSCE observers

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