MOSCOW (AFP) - Russian media on Monday hailed the results of a referendum in Crimea to split from Ukraine and join Russia, lauding the Black Sea peninsula's move to return to Kremlin rule.
"Crimea is returning to Russia," said pro-government mass circulation newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.
"Crimea is divorcing Ukraine," said the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily.
"Someone may not like it but we are happy," Izvestia newspaper quoted one voter as saying on its front page, next to a picture of smiling and clapping Crimeans.
"Yesterday Crimea made its choice - it wants to be part of Russia," said Rossiiskaya Gazeta, the official government newspaper.
An overwhelming 96.6 percent of voters on the mostly Russian-speaking peninsula chose to secede from Ukraine, according to final results from Sunday's referendum, which the West and Kiev authorities have condemned as illegal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the residents of Crimea - which has been home to Moscow's Black Sea fleet since the late 18th century and which was transferred to Ukraine only in 1954 by a Soviet leader - have a right to self-determination.
Top opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta appeared to be the only dissenting voice, publishing on its front page a picture of thousands of demonstrators who rallied in Moscow at the weekend against Russia's intervention in Crimea.
Kremlin sent troops to the peninsula after three months of anti-government protests in Ukraine saw the country's pro-Moscow president ousted and replaced with a Western-leaning team.