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MOSCOW, March 17, /ITAR-TASS/. Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin on Monday congratulated residents of the Republic of Crimea, which has declared its independence from Kiev following Sunday’s referendum at which most of its residents voted for joining Russia.
“I congratulate Crimeans on the decision they made,” Sobyanin said, adding that “whatever decision they had adopted we would have respected it”.
“But the fact that they decided to accede to Russia cannot but make Russians happy,” he said.
The Republic of Crimea, where most residents are Russians, held a plebiscite yesterday on whether to secede from Ukraine and become part of Russia or stay within Ukraine with broader autonomy. Some 97 percent of voters chose to join Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed a decree to recognize Crimea as a sovereign and independent state.
The Moscow mayor recalled that Russians had always felt unity with Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status.
“The fact that the decision [to join Russia] was made by free will expression, without any pressure, with such support from people, cannot but impress us,” Sobyanin said on Kommersant-FM radio.
The Moscow mayor noted that Russia has sent to Sevastopol a motorcade with humanitarian aid.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich left Ukraine in February after a coup in his country. He said last week that he remains the legitimate Ukrainian leader despite “an anti-constitutional seizure of power by armed radicals.” Russia considers Yanukovich the legitimate Ukrainian president.