Vladimir Putin orders fireworks as Crimea goes East

Thousands marked the annexation with fireworks and celebrations in Simferopol, where the population is around 58 per cent ethnic Russian. Credit: Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov

Fireworks and light displays ordered by Vladimir Putin have been held to mass crowds across Crimea hours after the Russian President signed an internationally condemned law formally annexing the Ukrainian region.

Lenin Square in the Crimean capital of Simferopol was drenched in the sparks of fireworks and thousands filled the centre of the nearby city of Sevastopol waving Russian flags during a simultaneous display, while fireworks also lit up the evening sky in Moscow.

ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine reports from Crimea:

Russia's upper house of parliament had earlier unanimously approved a treaty on the controversial annexing, clearing the way for Mr Putin to rubber stamp the law to formally absorb Crimea into Russian territory in a televised ceremony.

As Crimea headed East the rest of Ukraine moved further West, forging closer political ties with the European Union, which responded to the developments in Moscow by imposing sanctions on a dozen Russian officials. Canada also sanctioned 14 people.

ITV News International Affairs Editor Rageh Omaar reports from Brussels:

The EU also pledged to cut its reliance on Russian energy.

Prime Minister David Cameron was among 28 EU leaders in Brussels underlining their support for Ukraine's new leadership by signing a political deal with interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk and pledging further financial help.

The pro-Western Ukrainians took power after Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovich's overthrow last month, sparking the international stand-off and Crimea's defection following a disputed referendum.

Mr Cameron earlier condemned last Sunday's public poll in Crimea - which paved the way for today's annexation - as a "sham carried out at the end of a Kalashnikov" as he pre-empted the later sanctions action.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and two of Mr Putin's aides were among the group denied travel to the EU and forced to have their EU-based assets frozen.

Mr Rogozin dismissed the action, though, declaring:

He later further ridiculed the punishment, joking:

But the measures against Mr Putin's inner circle saw investors take fright, with shares on the Moscow stock exchange falling sharply.

The markets also felt an impact from US President Barack Obama's threat to target major sectors of the economy if Russian forced were extended to areas of Ukraine beyond the Black Sea peninsula.

A slight de-escalation of tensions came, though, with Russia finally approving the deployment of an international monitoring team for a six-month mission in Ukraine, though pointedly not in Crimea.