Preliminary results indicate that more than 95% of Crimeans voted for unification with Russia in Sunday’s referendum in Sevastopol, Ukraine.
Voters were given two options to choose from at the referendum, with one calling for a union with Russia, while the second offered increased autonomy within Ukraine, by returning to the 1992 constitution. However, there was no option for voters to retain the status quo and maintain existing links with Ukraine’s new government, as preferred by some individuals.
Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov said: "The Supreme Soviet of Crimea will make an official application for the republic to join the Russian Federation at a meeting on March 17."
The total voter turnout was reported to be high, but Tatars, who make up 12% of the population, mostly boycotted the referendum. It has already been declared illegitimate and illegal by the Ukrainian Government and the international community.
In a statement, the White House said that the Crimean referendum violates Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and occurred under duress of Russian military intervention, and it would never be recognised by the country and its European allies.
EU foreign ministers are scheduled to hold an emergency meeting today in Brussels, Belgium, to discuss the situation in Ukraine, and also impose sanctions against Russia, including visa bans and asset freezes.
The final poll results are scheduled to be announced later today, while the Russian Parliament is expected to pass legislation allowing Crimea to join Russia on 21 March.