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Moscow (CNN) - Never mind what the West thinks - the Kremlin says Ukraine's Crimea region is now part of Russia.
A signing ceremony Tuesday between Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister of Crimea and the mayor of the city of Sevastopol made it official, the Kremlin said in a statement. The territory, ceded to Ukraine in the Soviet era, is now part of the Russian Federation, it said.
The annexation - which had not been expected to occur until Russian lawmakers met later this week - was met with a howl of protest in Kiev, where Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called it "a robbery on an international scale."
Meanwhile, after masked gunmen killed a member of Ukraine's military, wounded another and placed the rest of the staff of a base in Crimea under arrest, the Defense Ministry authorized its forces in Crimea to use weapons "to protect and preserve the life of Ukrainian soldiers," according to a statement posted on its website.