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Crimea Asks to Join Russia after Soviet-Style Vote

People celebrate the announcement of preliminary results of today's referendum at Lenin Square in the Crimean capital of Simferopol

Kiev – Crimea formally applied to join Russia on Monday after its leaders declared a Soviet-style 97-percent result in favor of seceding from Ukraine in a referendum condemned as illegal by Kiev and the West that will trigger immediate sanctions. European Union foreign ministers met in Brussels to decide on visa bans and asset freezes against Russian and Crimean officials held responsible for Moscow’s military seizure of the southern Ukrainian region that is home to its Black Sea fleet.

Crimea’s parliament “made a proposal to the Russian Federation to admit the Republic of Crimea as a new subject with the status of a republic,” a statement on its website said. The move, dismembering Ukraine against its will, would escalate the most serious East-West crisis since the Cold War. As state media in Russia carried a startling reminder of its

Power to turn the United States to “radioactive ash”, President Barack Obama spoke to Vladimir Putin, telling the Russian president that he and his European allies were ready to impose “additional costs” on Moscow for violating Ukraine’s territory. The Kremlin and the White House issued statements saying Obama and Putin saw diplomatic options to resolve the dispute.

But Obama said Russian forces must first end “incursions” into its ex-Soviet neighbor while Putin renewed his accusation that the new leadership in Kiev, brought to power by an uprising that toppled his elected Ukrainian ally last month, were failing to protect Russian-speakers from violent Ukrainian nationalists.

Moscow responded to Western pressure for an international “contact group” to mediate in the crisis by proposing a “support group” of states that would push for recognition of the Crimean referendum and urge a new constitution for rump Ukraine that would require it to uphold political and military neutrality.

A complete preliminary count of Sunday’s vote showed that 96.77 percent of voters opted to join Russia, the chairman of the regional government commission overseeing the referendum, Mikhail Malyshev, announced on television. Officials said the turnout was 83 percent. Crimea is home to 2 million people. Members of the ethnic Ukrainian and Muslim Tatar minorities had said they would boycott the poll, held just three weeks after Russian forces took control of the peninsula. (Reuters)

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