Ukraine crisis: Early results show Crimea votes to join Russia

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from CNN,

Preliminary results in Sunday’s referendum on whether Ukraine’s Crimea region should join Russia or become an independent state overwhelmingly show support for Russia.

With 50% percent of the ballots counted, more than 95% of voters want to become part of that country, according to Crimean Electoral Commission head Mikhail Malyshev.

Earlier, he’d announced that more than 80% of voters had cast ballots by the time polls closed at 8 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET) Sunday.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, citing exit polls, reported that some 93% of people had voted to join Russia.

Final results are expected later.

“We are going home. Crimea is in Russia,” Crimea’s Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov told crowds celebrating in Simferopol’s Lenin Square. Music blared as they cheered and waved Russian flags.

The United States has already said it expects the Black Sea peninsula’s majority ethnic Russian population to vote in favor of joining Russia. Moscow has strongly backed the referendum. The White House released a statement that said the vote was “administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention that violates international law.”

The voting has put the United States and Russia on the kind of collision course not seen since the end of the Cold War. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reaffirmed in a call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Sunday that the United States considered the referendum illegal under Ukrainian law and that the United States would not recognize the outcome.

The European Union on Sunday repeated its “strong condemnation” of the referendum and called on Russia to withdraw its troops from the region. It, too, has called the referendum illegal and said it is looking at sanctions.

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