140319091427-08-ukraine-0319-horizontal-gallery copyRussia’s lower house of parliament overwhelmingly approved a treaty Thursday to annex the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine, prompting tougher sanctions from the United States. After Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had presented the treaty and urged lawmakers to accept the region as a part of the Russian Federation, the document was approved on a vote of 443 to 1. Russia’s Federation Council upper house will hold a similar vote Friday, completing ratification of a treaty that was signed by President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday. Speaking “on behalf” of Putin, Lavrov had told the State Duma that folding Crimea into Russia was needed to protect ethnic Russians there. “I am certain that passing the document will become a turning point in the destiny of multi-ethnic nations of Crimea and Russia, who are related with close ties of the historical unity,” Lavrov said. MORE