March 13 - Crimea readies for a referendum to join the Russian Federation, as the militaries of Russia, Ukraine and separatist Crimea flex their military might. Mana Rabiee reports.
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Election workers in Crimea ready the ballot boxes.
A Sunday referendum will decide if this mostly Russian-speaking Ukrainian province will join the Russian Federation.
Many here want to align their futures with neighboring Moscow.
Opponents of the referendum do exists but they're a smaller, much more quiet group.
(SOUNDBITE) (Russian) STUDENT OF SIMFEROPOL UNIVERSITY DMITRY, SAYING:
"Not everyone here, not even half of the population, want to join Russia. People here are currently afraid to walk around wearing Ukraine's symbols."
(SOUNDBITE) (Russian) CRIMEAN REFERENDUM OPPONENT, IRINA KOPYLOVA, SAYING:
"We are against the referendum; people who simply want to live in the united, calm and free Ukraine."
Ahead of the vote, all sides flexed their military muscle on Thursday.
Russia and Ukraine staged military exercises in the area.
And Crimea's separatist government swore-in new recruits for its pro-Russian army.
Ukraine's parliament is asking for help.
In a mostly symbolic vote, it called on the United Nations to consider the crisis in their country.
But Crimean election officials are confident voter turnout will be high.
(SOUNDBITE) (Russian) HEAD OF ELECTION COMMISSION OF LENIN DISTRICT OF SEVASTOPOL, ALEXANDER DROMASHKO, SAYING:
"It's not my first year at this polling station, I know people here. I think around 97 percent of people will show up, up to 100 percent. Because people really want, they desire to vote. It is their right."
Opponents plan to boycott Sunday's vote, including minority Muslim Tatars.
But with an ethnic-Russian majority here, Crimea's referendum isn't losing momentum.
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