Russian Parliament expected to ratify Crimean reunification treaty today

Russia’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled that the treaty on Crimea’s accession to Russia is legal and in line with the country’s Constitution.

The ruling came a day after President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of Crimea signed a treaty on the region’s reunification with Russia.

The Russian Parliament is expected to ratify the treaty on Thursday.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will visit Moscow on Thursday for talks on Ukraine with Mr. Putin, the Interfax news agency reported.

Meanwhile, two people died from gun fire in Crimea in mysterious shooting at a Ukrainian military topography centre on Tuesday. One of those killed was a Ukrainian officer, the other a member of Crimea’s self-defence forces.

First casualties

The two deaths were the first fatalities since Russian forces took control of Crimea. Two more men, one each from the Ukrainian and Crimean side, were injured in the shooting.

Ukrainian authorities in Kiev blamed the killings on Crimean activists who allegedly tried to storm the centre. The crisis in Crimea is shifting to a “military stage,” Ukraine’s Acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said.

“The blood of Ukrainian soldiers is on the leadership of the Russian Federation and specifically President Putin,” said Oleksandr Turchynov, the country’s interim president.

Crimean authorities for their part said the shooting was a provocation staged by far right nationalists from Ukraine and seized upon by the Ukrainian leaders to whip up tension in Crimea.

Following the incident the Ukrainian government lifted a ban on the use of firearms by Ukrainian forces in Crimea in self-defence.

Crimea’s forces on Wednesday took over without resistance the Ukrainian Navy’s headquarters in Sevastopol as part of their ongoing campaign to squeeze out Ukrainian military personnel from Crimea.

Before the standoff began there were about 22,000 Ukrainian military personnel on the peninsula.

In another incident in Kiev, the head of a state TV channel was violently assaulted in his office by Ukrainian radicals led by a lawmaker from the Svoboda right-wing party, which is part of the new ruling coalition.

Alexander Panteleymonov, CEO of the state-run NTU television, was repeatedly punched in the face, pushed and forced to write a resignation letter in a video posted online on Wednesday.

The attack was allegedly prompted by the channel’s broadcast of Mr. Putin's address on Crimea’s rejoining of Russia on Tuesday.

The new government in Kiev has banned several Russian TV channels in Ukraine.

More aid

The European Commission on Wednesday proposed extending one billion euros to Ukraine in addition to 610 million euros promised earlier. The loans are conditional on Ukraine reaching agreement with the International Monetary Fund on an aid package.

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