- Russian President Vladimir Putin called for Crimea to be added to Russia in a highly-anticipated speech in front of the country’s parliament earlier on Tuesday.

Putin, speaking to a joint session of Parliament in Moscow, also stressed the historical and cultural ties between Russia and Crimea, and said Crimea is an inalienable part of Russia.

"In our hearts we know Crimea has always been an inalienable part of Russia," he said.

The comments come one day after Putin signed a decree recognizing Ukraine''s Crimea region as a sovereign state.

Nearly 97% of voters in Crimea chose to break away from Ukraine and join Russia in a referendum held on Sunday.

European Union foreign ministers imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 21 people they have linked to the push to have Crimea secede from Ukraine and be annexed by Russia.

U.S. President Barack Obama also imposed sanctions on several Russian officials involved in the incursion of Crimea, which included freezing assets in the U.S.

Putin said that Russia sees Western attempts to impose sanctions on his country as “aggression and will retaliate”. He added that Russia “will never seek to spark confrontation with the West but will protect Russian interests.”

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