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Crimea holds vote to join Russia as turmoil sweeps Ukraine

Published on Mar 16, 2014 10:41 AM
Employees prepare the polling booth in one of the polling stations of Sevastopol on March 15, 2014, on the eve of the referendum in Crimea. -- PHOTO: AFP

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AFP) - Crimea braced for a referendum on Sunday on whether to leave Ukraine and join Russia, escalating a Cold War-style security crisis on Europe's eastern edge that has left diplomacy in disarray.

Around 1.5 million people are being called to vote on the rugged diamond-shaped peninsula, which is inhabited mostly by ethnic Russians.

The choice is between becoming part of Russia or taking more powers but staying in Ukraine - and a vote for the status quo is not an option.

Polls open at 0600 GMT (2pm Singapore time) and close at 1800 GMT (2am Monday Singapore time), with initial results soon after - although rehearsals for the big day including the slogan "We are in Russia!" beamed onto a government building left no doubt as to the outcome.

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