KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree recognizing Crimea as a "sovereign and independent country."
The Kremlin said Putin signed the decree on Monday, the day after the Black Sea peninsula voted to declare independence from Ukraine and seek annexation by Russia.
The U.N. says Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is "deeply disappointed and concerned" that Sunday's referendum in Crimea will exacerbate the crisis in Ukraine.
Ukraine's government and Western nations say the overwhelming vote in favor of Crimea joining Russia is illegal.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday that Ban is urging all parties to refrain from violence "and those with influence to avoid any steps that could further increase tensions."
He said the secretary-general is also urging the parties to pursue a political and diplomatic solution based on the principles of the U.N. Charter, "including respecting Ukraine's unity and sovereignty," that keeps in mind the aspirations of all people in the country.
"A deterioration of the situation will have serious repercussions for the people of Ukraine, the region and beyond," Dujarric said.