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Crimea holds secession referendum

Sunday, March 16, 2014 - 01:32

Mar. 16 - Crimea is voting on whether to rejoin Russia in a referendum, that has been condemned as ''illegal'' by Ukraine. Sarah Toms reports.

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Residents in the Ukrainian region of Crimea are voting on whether to rejoin Russia or stay with Ukraine but with more autonomy. As polling stations opened early in the morning, people queued outside waiting to place their ballot. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) HEAD OF ELECTORAL COMMISSION, MIKHAIL MALYSHEV, SAYING: "According to the information from polling stations people are lining up so at the moment we are observing the activity at this early time of day. We have not had that (long queues) since Soviet times." As most of Crimea's population are ethnic Russians, voters are expected to support leaving Ukraine. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) SIMFEROPOL RESIDENT LYUDMILA, SAYING: "It is such a holiday. I am so happy that I want to cry. My sister is 75-year-old, she was born in the Soviet Union, and can you imagine all that time she has been dreaming to die in Russia. And now she says her dream will come true." But Crimean Tatars, who make up about 12 per cent of the population -- are boycotting the poll. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) CRIMEAN TATAR SHEVKAYE ASSANOVA, SAYING: "I don't recognise it at all (the referendum). This is my land, this is the land of my ancestors. Who asked me if I want it or not? Who asked me? For the rest of my life I will be cursing those people who brought these people here, who sent them here. My mother is sick in bed because of this. I don't recognise this at all. I curse all of them." They aren't the only ones. The referendum has been condemned as "illegal" by Kiev and the West but is backed by Moscow. Around 1.5 million voters are eligible to cast their ballots, and the first results are expected to be released shortly after the referendum.

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Crimea holds secession referendum

Sunday, March 16, 2014 - 01:32