MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian parliament's lower house has given its near-unanimous approval to the country's annexation of Crimea, ignoring threats from Western powers of more sanctions.
The Kremlin-controlled State Duma voted 445-1 Thursday to make Crimea a part of Russia following a quick discussion in which members assailed the Ukrainian authorities.
The vote came as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Moscow for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin. "I'm deeply concerned about the current situation," Ban said at the start of the talks.
The incorporation of Crimea into Russia needs to be rubber-stamped by the upper house and receive a final endorsement by Putin, formalities expected to be completed by the end of the week.
During Thursday's debate, senior lawmakers spoke of the need to protect Russian speakers elsewhere in Ukraine from radical Ukrainian nationalists, statements that could fuel fears of Russian invasion.
"They don't understand in Washington that entire territories will flee as Crimea did if such outrage continues," said Vladimir Vasilyev, the leader of the dominant United Russia faction.
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