MOSCOW, March 19 (RAPSI) – Ukraine's Foreign Ministry has handed a note of protest to Russian charge d'affairs in Kiev Andrei Vorobyov in connection with signing of a treaty unifying Crimea with Russia, according to the ministry's website.

Leaders of the Autonomous Republic of Crime and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the treaty on Tuesday.  Ukraine defined Russia's acts as annexation, the statement reads.

Crimea, a largely Russian-speaking republic within Ukraine, was part of Russia until it was gifted to Ukraine by Khrushchev in 1954. President Putin said in his address that the decision was made with evident violations of the constitutional norms prevailing at the time.

Putin signed a decree Monday recognizing Crimea as an independent state, following a referendum Sunday that saw voters overwhelmingly support secession from Ukraine and reunification with Russia.

Crimea's leadership has refused to recognize as legitimate the new government in Ukraine that came to power following the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovich last month.