SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AFP) - Voters were seen casting their ballots even before the official start of Crimea's referendum on Sunday at a polling station in Sevastopol in one of several possible irregularities.
Journalists including AFP were also turned away at some polling stations in Sevastopol and Simferopol despite having official media accreditation from Crimea's authorities.
There was blatant campaigning for Russia, which is not allowed under election rules, in the form of rehearsals for parties later on Sunday to celebrate an expected pro-Moscow result.
Mr Mykhaylo Malyshev, the head of the referendum organising committee, denied reports that Russian citizens were being allowed to cast ballots, saying that only residents of Crimea or those with Ukrainian passports were allowed to take part.
At a polling station in Bakhchysaray, an AFP reporter saw a pensioner trying to vote with a Russian passport being turned away.
As the voting continued, Mr Malyshev also said there had been no "incidents" requiring police involvement despite concern of possible "provocations" by pro-unity activists.