Russia's actions are dangerous and destabilizing. The U.N. Security Council
recognized this in a vote yesterday that only Russia opposed. As the United
States and our allies have made clear, military intervention and violation
of international law will bring increasing costs for Russia - not only due
to measures imposed by the United States and our allies but also as a direct
result of Russia's own destabilizing actions.
18.36 Here is a bit more from Roland Oliphant on the result this
evening after polls close in Crimea:
"Crimea voted overwhelmingly for unification with Russia on Thursday
according to exit polls, in a vote that critics have condemned as
illegitimate, illegal, and neither free nor fair.
Exit polls announced on Russian Television claimed 93 percent of voters who
turned out for Sunday’s referendum voted for unification with Russia.
The poll suggested seven percent of voters opted for a second option of
sweeping autonomy within Ukraine, carried out by a Simferopol based
organisation called the Republican Institute for Political and Social
The high vote chimes with straw-polls conducted by journalists at polling
stations, and likely reflects a boycott by anti-secessionist voters. Refat
Chubarov, the head of the Mejlis, a representative body of the Crimean
Tatars, called on people of all nationalities to stay away from what he has
called an illegal and illegitimate vote.
Of dozens of voters of three Crimean towns visited by Telegraph journalists
on Sunday, not one admitted to voting against the poll.
Western governments have universally condemned the referendum, saying it
violates Ukrainian and international law, and is neither free nor fair.
Ukrainian law requires a nation-wide referendum on any change to the
Queues were already building at polling stations before polls opened at 8
AM on Sunday morning.
Sergei Aksyonov, the pro-Russian prime minister who became a member of the
Russians, voted early on Sunday morning.
Preparations for unification celebrations were already underway in central
Simferopol hours before polls closed at 8 PM on Sunday night.
18.24 According to the Crimean leader, the Crimean referendum "will
go down in history".
18.22 A Russian news agency, Interfax, says voter turnout has exceeded
18.20 Here is a bit more: "As the United States and our allies
have made clear, military intervention and violation of international law
will bring increasing costs for Russia - not only due to measures imposed by
the United States and our allies but also as a direct result of Russia's own
destabilizing actions," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a
18.14 The White House says that it rejects the referendum in Crime and
has called Russia's actions "dangerous" and "destabilising"
according to Reuters.
It added that Eussia will face "increasing costs" for military
intervention and the violation of international law. It says that the vote
held under "threats of violence and intimidation" by Russian
"We are long past the days when the world would stand quietly by while
one country forcibly seizes the territory of another."
18.07 Russia's RIA news agency says exit polls show that 93 percent of
voters in Crimea support the union with russia.
18.05 More than 2,000 people have marched to the Russian embassy in
London on Sunday to denounce the "referendum at gunpoint" staged
in the Ukrainian region of Crimea.
The demonstrators carried banners, placards and Ukrainian flags and chanted
their opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions.
"Stop Putin's imperialism", "Referendum at gunpoint", "Ukraine:
united, peaceful, European" and "Russian army out of Ukraine"
read banners carried by protesters.
They chanted "Ukraine united will never be divided", "Putin:
hands off Ukraine" and "Russian troops leave Crimea".
Among the placards were ones depicting Putin as a rat and as Adolf Hitler,
while others read: "RIP USSR" and "Make borscht not war"
and called for Western sanctions against Russia.
16.54 The EU's statement on Ukraine:
"The referendum is illegal and illegitimate and its outcome will not be
"We reiterate the strong condemnation of the unprovoked violation of
Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and call on Russia to
withdraw its armed forces to their pre-crisis numbers,"
16.25 Riot police stand in front of pro-Russian activists as they storm
the prosecutor's office in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk:
16.20 A little bit more about the EU's decision on Ukraine. In a joint
statement by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European
Council President Herman Van Rompuy, they called on Russia to withdraw its
armed forces to their pre-crisis numbers and to usual areas of deployment.
The EU will meet in Brussels on Monday.
16.19 Kerry reiterated the US's position that the crisis must 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.
16.14 Kerry also reaffirmed that the United States considers the
referendum illegal and will not recognise the outcome. He called Lavrov's
attention to actions taken by the government of Ukraine to arrest those
responsible for violence in Kharkiv and steps taken to implement the
demobilisation and disarmament of irregular forces.
16.11 A senior US state department official said that John Kerry raised
strong concerns about the Russian military activities in Kherson oblast
yesterday with Russian foreign minister Sergy Lavrov, and about the
continuing provocations in eastern cities in Ukraine
16.03 This just in from Reuters, the EU has said that the Crimea
referendum is illegal and illegitimate and the outcome will not be
recognised according to President of the European Commission José Manuel
Barroso. The EU will decide on sanctions on Monday.
15.55 A bit more on America's movements in the crisis. The White House
has warned President Putin that Moscow will face sanctions in coming days
and international isolation that will hurt Russia's economy.
"We are putting as much pressure on the Russians as we can to do the
right thing," White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer has said.
"You can expect sanctions designations in the coming days," Pfeiffer
told NBC's Meet the Press
Meanwhile Republican Senator John McCain, just back from a visit to Ukraine,
urged the Obama administration to do more. "The United States of
America has to first of all have a fundamental reassessment of our
relationship with Vladimir Putin. No more 'reset' button,
15.38 The scene in Lenin Square, Simferopol
15.35 A little add from Roland Oliphant:
"The boycott announced by Tatar leader Refat Chubarov appears to have
held across the peninsular.
One Russian Communist Party MP, in Crimea as an observer, told the
Telegraph that he had spoken to a Tatar voter at polling station in strongly
Tatar town of Bakhchassari - but all the voters the Telegraph spoke to at
the same polling station and others in the town described themselves as
ethnic Russians or Russian-speaking Ukrainians. "
15.31 Crimeans at a polling station in Bakhchisarai, Simferopol
15.30 Activists in Donetsk raised the Russian flag in the
prosecutor-general's office. Reuters reports that about 500 of them later
broke windows at the local headquarters of the state security service but
were held back from entering the building.
15.24 An update from our correspondent Roland Oliphant who has spent
the day in Crimea monitoring voting:
"After an early morning rush, voting appears to have peaked at polling
stations across the peninsular by midday. By mid afternoon polling stations
on Lyubovnets, Bakhchissarai and Simferopol were almost deserted, with
election officials waiting in near silence for late voters to trickle in one
While I have seen no sign of coercion or ballot stuffing, its clear this is
going to be a landslide "yes" vote after a near total boycott by
those who reject unification with Russia.
Of dozens of voters I have spoken to today, not a single one said they had
voted for option two - autonomy within Ukraine - and not a single one of the
ballots visible in the transparent ballot boxes at seven polling stations in
three towns I visited had been ticked with option two.
With four hours to go before polls close, one exit pollster outside a
Simferopol polling station said he only about 'five percent" of the 800
odd people his team had spoken to that day had refused to answer his
questions. Everyone else said they had voted in favour of unification with
Russia. "No one voted against. I think those who disagree just stayed
away," he said.
"We want to go home," said Olga Lushak, 28, who works in an off
license in the town. "My parents moved here from Pskov region and
Vorkutka in Russia in Soviet times. No one asked us if we want to be part of
Ukraine - now its time to make this land home again."
15.21 Reuters reports that Ukraine's new rulers have announced a
call-up to raise 20,000 men for a newly-created National Guard, accusing
Russia of sending "touring" trouble-makers across the border to
stir up separatism in the country.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said half the strength of the National Guard
was being sought within a fortnight. "About 10,000 will be called up in
the next 15 days," he said.
15.13 Meanwhile, a Russian soldier holding a cat in Crimea.
15.08 Protesters, demanding the release of their self-appointed "governor,"
attacked the two buildings in Donetsk without meeting much opposition from
14.25 Crimeans voting at a polling station in Bakhchisarai, Simferopol:
14.22 German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Putin that more Organisation
for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observers should be sent to
Ukraine, a plan he welcomed, Merkel's spokesman said.
"The chancellor proposed swiftly expanding the existing OSCE presence in
Ukraine and sending a bigger number of observers into hot spots, especially
in East Ukraine," Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
Merkel also condemned a Russian attempt on Saturday to try to enter a spit of
land belonging to Kherson, a region adjacent to Crimea,
14.04 Strong words from Ukraine's new prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk
who has insisted again that neither Ukraine nor the West will recognize the
referendum, which they say is being conducted at gunpoint.
"Now, on the territory of the autonomous republic of Crimea under the
stage direction of the Russian Federation, a circus performance is underway:
the so-called referendum, he told a government meeting. "Also taking
part in the performance are 21,000 Russian troops, who with their guns are
trying to prove the legality of the referendum."
13.27 Putin has also said that he will respect the choice of the people
in Crimea in the referendum and that he is concerned over the escalation of
tensions he says are caused by radical groups in the south and southeast
regions of the Ukraine.
13.21 Acording to a Kremlin statement Vladimir Putin has told German
chancellor Angela Merkel by phone that the referendum in Crimea complies
with international law.
13.10 AFP say that 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 were also turned away at some polling stations in Sevastopol and
Simferopol despite having official media accreditation from Crimea's
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.
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.
13.08 There are increasing fears in Latvia that after Crimea, they
may be next to receive Russian 'protection'.
12.55 Crimeans at a polling station to vote:
12.50 Here is a
profile of Sergei Akssyonov, the pro-Russian Crimean prime minister
presiding over today's vote.
12.45 Just in from Reuters, the acting Ukrainian defence minister says
that the defence ministries of Ukraine and Russia have agreed on a truce in
Crimea until March 21. He said that Russian forces have agreed that they
will take no action against Ukrainian military facilities in Crimea during
12.40 Pro- Moscow activists in Donetsk are looking for the release of
Pavel Gubarev who declares himself "people's governor". He was arrested
on March 6 and charged with "infringing the territorial integrity and
independence of the state”.
12.35 Last night about 30 men in balaclavas with automatic weapons
barged into the Hotel Moscow, a Soviet-era hotel where many Western
reporters covering Sunday's referendum are staying.
They said they had come to investigate an unspecified security alert and did
not threaten anyone, but Reuters say some witnesses saw it as a move to
12.30 An armoured vehicle, believed to be Russian, guards the entrance
of a Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoye, near the Crimean city of
12.25 AP has some information on ethnic Ukrainians, who were
interviewed outside the Ukrainian Orthodox cathedral of Vladimir and Olga .
They said they refused to take part in the referendum, calling it an illegal
charade that they said was stage managed by Moscow.
Some said they were scared of the potential for ethnic cleansing in the coming
weeks, like what happened in parts of the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
"We're just not going to play these separatist games," said Yevgen
Sukhodolsky, a 41-year-old prosecutor from Saki, a town outside of
Simferopol. "Putin is the fascist. The Russian government is fascist."
Vasyl Ovcharuk, a retired gas pipe layer who also worked on the Chernobyl
nuclear disaster in 1986, predicted dark days ahead for Crimea.
"This will end up in military action, in which peaceful people will
suffer. And that means everybody. Shells and bullets are blind," he
12.10 This video on You Tube comes from the Euro Maidan account and
they say it shows the Russian army preparing military equipment for the
invasion of the Ukraine:
12.07 Our correspondent Roland Oliphant is in the Crimean capital
Simferol for the referendum:
A steady stream of voters, mostly elderly, passed through polling station
number 08013 in Simferopol’s high school No. 9 after polling opened at 8 AM.
A straw poll of half a dozen voters at the station showed blanket support
for unification with Russia.
"I voted so Crimea would be happy,” said Vladimir Nazarevich, after casting
the first ballot of the morning.
"We’re returning to our own land. It’s been Russian for 200 years. To day
we return,” said Leonid, a 74 year old retired physiotherapist, who was
queuing to vote at the same polling station before voting opened at 8 AM.
The tri-lingual ballot paper asks two questions in Russian, Ukrainian, and
The first option is "Do you support Criema’s unification with Russia as a
subject of the Russian Federation.”
The second option asks "do you support the reinstatement of the 1992
contrition of Crimea and Crimea’s status as a part of Ukraine.
None of the handful of carelessly folded ballots that were visible in the
transparent ballot boxes after an hour of voting showed a "no” vote.
12.05 From our chief foreign correspondent David Blair, a handy Ukraine
12.00 Queues are forming across Crimea as voters flock to the polls. Here an elderly woman casts her vote at a polling station in Sevastopol:
11.55 The head of EON, Germany's leading power supplier, warned Berlin
against "recklessly" damaging ties with Russia over the crisis in
Johannes Teyssen told Der Spiegel that the tensions risked hobbling a fruitful "partnership".
"I don't want to interfere in foreign policy questions but I think that
we have exercised very responsible policy toward the east in the last few
"The build-up of trust and the interlocking of our economies have led to
the fact that more than 6,000 German companies are active in Russia."
He said that at the same time, Russian companies had invested heavily in
Germany, particularly in the gas sector.
"Through this partnership, our continent has grown more peaceful. That
should not be recklessly jeopardised."
11.44 Dr James Summers, director of the Centre for International Law
and Human Rights at Lancaster University, said that the referendum could
backfire on Russia.
"The referendum in itself violates international law, as it stems from an
illegal act, the invasion of the Crimea, which it seeks to legitimise.
"Russia may be using the referendum as a bargaining chip in negotiations,
though this may backfire as the vote is so clearly tainted.
"Other neighbouring states will be looking anxiously at what is happening
"They will see that it could also happen to them, and that could work against
Russia by turning more former Soviet states away from it and towards the
West in the search for allies and support.
11.32 Some more information from Ukraine's acting defence minister Ihor
Tenyukh from that Interfax interview. "We are seeing an increase in the
number of Russian servicemen in Crimea," he said. "And the
Ukrainian armed forces are therefore taking appropriate measures along the
He added that every senior Ukrainian officer in Crimea "clearly knows
what is to be done depending on the situation".
"Decisions will be taken depending on how events unfold. But let me say
once again that this is our land and we will not be leaving it."
11.05 The head of Crimea's unrecognised Russian-backed government
11.00 Ukraine's former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko has urged the
West to unite against Russia.
"This aggressive striving for power with regard to Ukraine represents not
only a danger for the Ukrainian state - other parts of eastern Europe are
also in danger," she told German daily Der Tagesspiegel.
"Should Putin continue his attack on our country after the annexation of
Crimea, I would call on the leaders of the democratic world to use the
strongest measures to stop this aggressor."
10.50 Polling stations opened this morning at 8 am local time and will
close 12 hours later, at 6 pm GMT
10.40 At the United Nations Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution
declaring the referendum illegal, and China, its ally, abstained.
10.37 AP have quotes from voters in Sevastopol, the Crimean capital,
where voters apparently lined up outside polling stations before they
opened. More than 70 people surged into a polling station within the first
15 minutes of voting.
"Today is an important day for all Crimea, Ukraine and Russia," said
voter Manita Meshchina. "I think that people are expecting the majority
of people will vote 'yes.' What it means is that people believe and think
they need to be with Russia."
"Today is a holiday," said one of them, 66-year-old Vera Sverkunova.
Asked how she voted, she broke into a patriotic war song: "I want to go
home to Russia. It's been so long since I've seen my mama."
10.34 Good morning. The Crimea region is voting today about whether to
demand greater autonomy from Ukraine or split off and seek to join Russia,
in a referendum that has been condemned as illegal by the United States and
Yesterday Ukrainian officials said Russian forces backed by helicopter
gunships and armored vehicles had advanced about 6 miles over the Crimean
border into another Ukrainian region.
11.01 A woman holds a Russian flag as she casts her ballot during the