The Russian Parliament has approved a treaty making Crimea part of Russia even as Ukraine proclaimed the region an "occupied territory" and threatened to go nuclear.

The Russian Parliament has approved a treaty making Crimea part of Russia even as Ukraine proclaimed the region an “occupied territory” and threatened to go nuclear.

The State Duma, the Russian Parliament’s lower house, on Thursday, overwhelmingly ratified the treaty on reunification of Crimea with Russia signed two days back. The upper house is expected to endorse the pact on Friday.

Ukraine reacted to the Russian move with a flurry of legislative initiatives, ranging from a visa regime for Russia to acquiring nuclear weapons to stop Russia’s “invasion”.

The Ukrainian Parliament adopted a declaration stating that “the Ukrainian people will never, under any circumstances, stop fighting for the liberation of Crimea from the occupants.”

Ukraine’s Security Council has called for introducing a full-scale visa system for Russians and pulling out of the Commonwealth of Independent States, an amorphous association of former Soviet states. However, Acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Kiev should not be in a hurry to impose a visa regime on Russia as the measure would hurt Ukrainians who earn their living in Russia. There are 3 to 5 million Ukrainian migrant workers in Russia who remit home $4 to $5 billion a year.

Ukrainian lawmakers have also drafted a host of bills to protect Ukraine against “expansionist” Russia, including a bill that would “restore” Ukraine’s nuclear status. In 1994 Ukraine handed over to Russia the nuclear weapons left over after the breakup of the Soviet Union in exchange for international guarantees of its security and territorial integrity.

Other bills call for joining NATO, expelling Russia from the United Nations and declaring wartime mobilisation.

In Crimea, authorities on Thursday set free Admiral Serhiy Hayduk, the commander of Ukraine’s Black Sea Fleet, who had been detained following the storming of the Ukrainian naval headquarters by pro-Russian self-defence forces on Wednesday. Following the capture of the naval command, Ukraine’s other military units in Crimea gave up their peaceful resistance to the takeover by Crimean self-defence forces and disbanded.

Ukraine’s Security and Defence Council Secretary Andriy Parubiy said Ukraine will make arrangements to relocate as many as 25,000 soldiers and their families to the Ukrainian mainland. However, Russia said many Ukrainian servicemen in Crimea were applying to join the Russian armed forces. Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on Thursday asked President Vladimir Putin to sign a decree that would allow the Russian military to recruit Ukrainian servicemen.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Mr Putin in Moscow on Thursday to discuss the Ukraine crisis. Mr Ban said they had a “constructive and productive meeting,” adding however that he had come to Moscow with a “heavy heart” and was “disappointed and concerned” over the Crimean referendum on splitting from Ukraine and rejoining Russia. He said the U.N. would do its utmost to facilitate direct dialogue between Moscow and Kiev. Russia has refused to talks to the new leaders in Kiev, whom it considers “illegitimate.”

Moscow on Thursday unveiled its own blacklist of nine U.S. nationals who will be banned from entry into Russia. The list published on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website includes Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, President Barack Obama’s aides Daniel Pfeiffer and Benjamin Rhodes, head of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Robert Menendez and some other senators and administration officials.

The Russian retaliation came minutes after Mr Obama announced new sanctions against Russia that adds 20 names to the earlier list of 11 penalised Russian officials, and includes a Russian bank. The officials, whose assets have been frozen and will be banned from visiting the U.S include Mr Putin’s head of staff, Sergei Ivanov, State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin and some businessmen close to Mr Putin.

The U.S. President said the sanctions could be extended to broad sections of the Russian economy if Russia further escalates the Ukraine crisis.

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