SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (CBS NEWS/AP)-- Ukraine's Crimean peninsula declared itself independent Monday after its residents voted overwhelmingly to secedeand join Russia, while the United States and the European Union slappedsanctions against some of those who promoted the divisive referendum.
Ukraine's political turmoilhas become Europe's most severe security crisis in years and tensionshave been high since Russian troops seized control of Crimea two weeksago. Large numbers of Russian troops are also massed near the borderwith Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, which has sharp politicaldifferences with the country's new government in Kiev.
The U.S., EU and Ukraine's new government do not recognize the referendum held Sunday in Crimea,saying it violates both Ukrainian and international norms. Moscow,however, considers the vote legitimate and Russian President Putin wasto address both houses of parliament Tuesday on the Crimean situation.
The Crimean referendum could also encourage rising pro-Russian sentimentin Ukraine's east and lead to further divisions in this nation of 46million.
A delegation of Crimean lawmakers was traveling toMoscow on Monday for negotiations on how to proceed. Russian lawmakershave suggested that formally annexing Crimea is almost certain - withone saying it could happen within days.
Those living on the strategic Black Sea peninsula applauded the move, since it received over 97 percent backing from voters.
"Wecame back home to Mother Russia. We came back home, Russia is ourhome," said Nikolay Drozdenko, a resident in Sevastopol, the key Crimeanport where Russia leases a naval base from Ukraine.
The Crimean parliament declared that all Ukrainian state property on thepeninsula will be nationalized and become the property of the CrimeanRepublic. Lawmakers also asked the United Nations and other nations torecognize it and began work on setting up a central bank with $30million in support from Russia.
The United States announced sanctionsagainst seven Russian officials, while the EU's foreign ministersslapped travel bans and asset freezes against 21 officials from Russiaand Ukraine following Crimea referendum. The ministers did notimmediately release the names and nationalities of those targeted by thesanctions.
While the diplomatic standoff between Moscow and theWest -- with Ukraine in the middle -- heats up, CBS News correspondentElizabeth Palmer reports that the Crimeans who voted to join Russia arenow ever more convinced they're on their way.
As soon as the tally was in, the party on the streets in the Crimeancapital of Simferopol started. Palmer says Crimea's new prime ministersaid aloud what many in the crowd before him were feeling.
"Dear friends," said Sergei Aksyonov to the crowd in Lenin Square, "we are going home, to Russia!"
Palmersays the voting on Sunday was orderly, and turnout was heavy. TheCrimean government said 83 percent of voters cast ballots -- most ofthem firmly convinced that a vote for Russia was a vote for a betterlife.
"We need to show solidarity with Ukraine and thereforeRussia leaves us no choice," Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorskitold reporters in Brussels before the vote. "The 'Anschluss' of Crimeacannot rest without a response from the international community."
He was referring to Nazi Germany's forceful annexation of Austria.
Moscow,meanwhile, called on Ukraine to become a federal state as a way ofresolving the polarization between Ukraine's western regions - whichfavor closer ties with the 28-nation EU - and its eastern areas, whichhave long ties to Russia.
In a statement Monday, Russia's Foreign Ministry urged Ukraine'sparliament to call a constitutional assembly that could draft a newconstitution to make the country federal, handing more power to itsregions. It also said country should adopt a "neutral political andmilitary status," a demand reflecting Moscow's concern about theprospect of Ukraine joining NATO.
Russia is also pushing for Russian to become Ukraine's state language.
In Kiev, Ukraine's new government dismissed Russia's proposal Monday as unacceptable, saying it "looks like an ultimatum."
Thenew government in Kiev emerged after pro-Russian President ViktorYanukovych fled to Russia last month after three months of protestsculminated in deadly clashes.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister AndriyDeshchytsya visited NATO headquarters in Brussels to request technicalequipment to deal with the secession of Crimea and the Russian incursionthere.
NATO said in a statement the alliance was determined toboost its cooperation with Ukraine, including "increased ties withUkraine's political and military leadership, strengthening efforts tobuild the capacity of the Ukrainian military" with more joint training.
Deshchytsyasaid he also talked with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussenabout sending monitors to Ukraine - a move that would certainly inflameRussia.
You may also like...
Beach Treasure:Lost wedding ring found 8 months later
Nudist Lawsuit:Blind woman sues for having service dog refused
Reptile Invasion:Exotic "tegu lizards" taking over Tampa Bay
Underwater Secret:Hidden caves beneath Weeki Wachee
Send in the Clowns:Clown shortage threatens the nation
Sasquatch on Tour:"Dead Bigfoot" on display in Texas
#ShortYellows: Florida quietly shortened yellow lights
Kittens shot:Officer shoots kittens in front of children
Popular photo galleries:
Faces of Meth:Devastating before and after photos of meth abusers
Trayvon Martin Shooting:Trayvon Martin crime scene photos and George Zimmerman injury photos
Hooters Winners:Winners of the 2013 Hooters swimsuit pageant
Rejected:Funny Florida license plates rejected by the DMV ***warning graphic***
Deadly sinkhole:Home collapses, man dies in giant sinkhole
Florida Sex Offenders:Look up sex offenders in any Florida neighborhood here
Restaurant Inspections:Look up inspection reports for any Florida restaurant here