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On Monday evening Vice President Joe Biden was heading to Europe to meet with NATO allies. He was headed for Warsaw, where he was slated to meet Tuesday with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and President Bronislaw Komorowski. He was to meet separately with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves. In Lithuania, Biden planned to meet with President Dalia Grybauskaite and Latvia’s President Andris Berzins.
In the Crimean capital of Simferopol, ethnic Russians applauded Sunday’s referendum that overwhelmingly called for secession and for joining Russia. Masked men in body armor blocked access for most journalists to the parliament session that declared independence, but the city otherwise appeared to go about its business normally.
"We came back home to Mother Russia. We came back home, Russia is our home," said Nikolay Drozdenko, a resident of Sevastopol, the key Crimean port where Russia leases a naval base from Ukraine.
A delegation of Crimean officials was to fly to Moscow on Monday and Putin was to address both houses of parliament Tuesday on the Crimean situation, both indications that Russia could move quickly to annex.
In Kiev, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov vowed that Ukraine will not give up Crimea.
"We are ready for negotiations, but we will never resign ourselves to the annexation of our land," a somber Turchynov said in a televised address to the nation. "We will do everything in order to avoid war and the loss of human lives. We will be doing everything to solve the conflict through diplomatic means. But the military threat to our state is real."
The Crimean parliament declared that all Ukrainian state property on the peninsula will be nationalized and become the property of the Crimean Republic. It gave no further details. Lawmakers also asked the United Nations and other nations to recognize it and began work on setting up a central bank with $30 million in support from Russia.
Moscow, meanwhile, called on Ukraine to become a federal state as a way of resolving the polarization between Ukraine’s western regions — which favor closer ties with the 28-nation EU — and its eastern areas, which have long ties to Russia.
In a statement Monday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry urged Ukraine’s parliament to call a constitutional assembly that could draft a new constitution to make the country federal, handing more power to its regions. It also said the country should adopt a "neutral political and military status," a demand reflecting Moscow’s concern that Ukraine might join NATO and establish closer political and economic ties with the EU.
Russia is also pushing for Russian to become one of Ukraine’s state languages, in addition to Ukrainian.
In Kiev, Ukraine’s new government dismissed Russia’s proposal as unacceptable, saying it "looks like an ultimatum."
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya visited NATO headquarters in Brussels to request technical equipment to deal with the secession of Crimea and the Russian incursion there.
NATO said in a statement that the alliance was determined to boost its cooperation with Ukraine, including "increased ties with Ukraine’s political and military leadership."
Associated Press writers Maria Danilova in Kiev, John-Thor Dahlburg in Simferopol, Lynn Berry in Moscow, Nedra Pickler in Washington, Pan Pylas in London and Mike Corder and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report.
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