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93 per cent of Crimeans want to re-join Russia: exit polls

Crimeans have been going to the polls to decide on whether to leave Ukraine and join Russia. Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has condemned the ballot as ‘illegal’.

imageA pro Russian supporter waves a Russian flag next to a statue of Soviet revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin at a square in central Simferopol, Crimea [AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic]

Updated at 19.47pm

AN OVERWHELMING 93 percent of Crimeans have voted to become part of Russia in a referendum deemed illegal by the new authorities in Ukraine and most of the internatinal community, exit polls have shown.

“Ninety-three percent of Crimean residents have supported the attachment of Crimea to Russia in the referendum. This is the data given by the exit polls,” Crimea’s pro-Moscow authorities said.

The United States has rejected the results of the referendum and called Russian actions in the crisis “dangerous and destabilizing.”

“This referendum is contrary to Ukraine’s constitution, and the international community will not recognize the results of a poll administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention that violates international law,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Phone calls

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a telephone call that he was concerned over tensions in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeastern regions.

“The Russian president once again expressed concern over tensions in Ukraine’s south and southeast being inflamed by radical groups with the connivance of Kiev’s authorities,” the Kremlin said in a statement following the talks.

Putin also “stressed that Russia will respect the choice of Crimea’s residents” in today’s ballot, the statement said. The Russian leader reiterated Moscow’s position that the referendum was in line with international law, it said.

image

An Ukrainian policeman exits a voting booth after casting his vote in Perevalne [Vadim Ghirda/AP/Press Association Images]

US Secretary of State John Kerry has also been in phone contact with Moscow. America’s top diplomat urged Russia to pull back its forces to their bases in Crimea in return for constitutional reforms in Ukraine to protect minority rights, a US official said.

“The secretary made clear that this crisis can only be resolved politically and that as Ukrainians take the necessary political measures going forward, Russia must reciprocate by pulling forces back to base, and addressing the tensions and concerns about military engagement,” the senior State Department official said.

Kerry reiterated that the United States considers today’s referendum illegal under Ukrainian law and that said the US would not recognize the outcome.

He also raised concerns about Russian military activity in Kherson Oblast, the Ukrainian province just north of Crimea, and “continuing provocations” in the eastern cities.

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People walk past an armoured personal carrier in Simferopol, Ukraine [Ivan Sekretarev/AP/Press Association Images]

Meanwhile, the EU has also said Crimea’s referendum is illegal and announced that it will decide sanctions tomorrow.

“The referendum is illegal and illegitimate and its outcome will not be recognised,” the European Council and European Commission presidents said in a joint statement.

EU foreign ministers meeting tomorrow “will evaluate the situation tomorrow in Brussels and decide on additional measures” against Moscow, Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso said.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore also criticised the vote, reiterating a call for Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty.

According to a statement:

As I have already made clear, today’s referendum in Crimea is illegal. The results of the vote are without legal effect. Ireland and the majority of the international community do not recognise the legitimacy of the referendum. Nor do we accept the validity of the result.

The heavy troop presence in Crimea means that the so-called referendum has not been conducted under what could be considered remotely acceptable conditions. Furthermore, any decision relating to Ukraine’s sovereignty or sovereign choices can only be taken without undue external pressure.

Includes reporting from AFP & other wire services.

Read: Ukraine and Russia agree a ‘temporary’ Crimea truce

Read: Will Crimea break away from Ukraine for Russia? The people decide today

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About the author:

Daragh Brophy

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