As it happened: Crimea votes in referendum

Key points

  • Election officials say 95.5% of voters have backed joining Russia in the referendum, after half of the ballots were counted
  • Crimea's leader says he will apply to join Russia on Monday and tells cheering crowds in Simferopol the region is "going home"
  • Many Crimeans loyal to Kiev boycotted the referendum but election officials hailed the "record" turnout
  • The EU and US say the referendum was illegal and threaten sanctions on Russia
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin says he will respect the wishes of the Crimean people
  • All times GMT

Live text

Reporting:

  • Sarah Fowler 
  • Gerry Holt 
  • Richard Irvine-Brown 
  • Nina Lamparski 
  • Kerry Alexandra 

Last updated 16 March 2014

STANDARD 06:36

Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the referendum in Crimea, where voters will decide today whether they want to rejoin Russia or stay with Ukraine.

STANDARD 06:37

Polling stations across Crimea opened at 08:00 local time (06:00 GMT) and are due to close 12 hours later.

STANDARD 06:38

The ballot paper asks voters two questions. The first is: "Are you in favour of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea reuniting with Russia as a constituent part of the Russian Federation?"

STANDARD 06:40

A second question asks whether Ukraine should return to its status under the 1992 constitution, which would give the region much greater autonomy.

STANDARD 06:48

Click here to view our interactive explainer of the ballot paper.

STANDARD 06:50

Voters in Crimea (16 March 2014)

Voters line up at a polling station in the Crimean capital, Simferopol. Some 1.5 million people are eligible to cast their vote.

STANDARD 06:53

Western leaders have branded the poll illegal. US President Barack Obama has called it a "slapdash" vote which "ignores" the constitution. The leaders of the G7 industrialised nations said they would not recognise the outcome of the vote.

STANDARD 06:54

But Russian President Vladimir Putin says the referendum is "based on international law".

STANDARD 06:56

The Crimean region was part of Russia until 1954 and most of its residents are ethnic Russians, many of whom would prefer to be governed by Moscow rather than Kiev.