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

    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.


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


    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?"


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


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

    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.


    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.


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


    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.

    Edward Redchenko, Sevastopol

    emails: I am a Russian living in Sevastopol. I am going to vote in Ukraine's favour. I feel it is the right thing to do. Unfortunately there is a little hope for the referendum to be fair. People around are completely zombified by pro-Russia propaganda.


    On Saturday, Russia was the only Security Council member to vote against a draft UN resolution criticising the referendum. China, regarded as a Russian ally on the issue, abstained from the vote.


    Preliminary results are expected soon after polls close at 20:00 local time (18:00 GMT).


    On Saturday, tens of thousands took to the streets in Moscow to protest against Russia's actions in Ukraine, the biggest such rally in two years. As many as 50,000 attended the demonstrations, with protesters shouting: "Hands off Ukraine."


    A smaller pro-Russian rally was also held in Moscow on Saturday. Some 15,000 supporters of President Vladimir Putin came out to support the Crimean referendum. Many of them wore identical red outfits and carried Russian and Soviet flags.

    Will Vernon BBC News, Simferopol

    tweets: These pensioners at polling station no 4 insisted I took their photo. "Tell the world we aren't enemies" #Crimea

    Voters in Crimea (16 March 2014)

    The Ukrainian crisis began in November 2013 when President Viktor Yanukovych rejected an EU trade deal in favour of closer ties with Russia.

    Ben Tobias BBC News, Simferopol

    tweets: Extremely high turnout at this polling station. Haven't spoken to anyone yet who's voted against joining russia.


    Mass protests erupted in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities, causing the pro-Moscow government to fall on 22 February and forcing President Yanukovych to flee to Russia.


    The focus of the crisis in Ukraine shifted from Kiev to the Crimea region on 27 February, where pro-Russian gunmen seized control of key buildings in the Crimean capital, Simferopol.


    We've used handy maps in this short explainer to give you a clear idea of how the Ukrainian crisis unfolded.


    Ethnic Russians form a clear majority in the region with 58.5%, and many of them are expected to vote for joining Russia.

    James Mates ITV News, Europe Editor

    In case anyone forgets what they're supposed to be voting for, polling booths are in colours of Russian flag #crimea

    Voting station in Crimea (16 March 2013)

    The European Union earlier warned it would issue further tough sanctions against Russian officials if Sunday's referendum went ahead. EU foreign Ministers are expected to discuss these sanctions at a meeting in Brussels on Monday.


    The BBC's Patrick Jackson visited the small Crimean town of Novo-Ozyorne where many people expressed fears of reprisals by Ukrainian radicals, should they speak out, let alone side with Moscow on the referendum. Hear what else they had to say in our reporter's interactive feature.


    International observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) were prevented last week from entering Crimea. Pro-Russian forces fired warning shots in the air as the OSCE convoy approached a checkpoint leading from mainland Ukraine into the peninsula.


    The OSCE earlier issued a statement saying today's referendum in Crimea is "in contradiction with the Ukrainian constitution and must be considered illegal".

    Artem, Crimea

    emails: I am not going to vote because I do not see any reason for that. Everything has already been decided by Putin before the fact of upcoming referendum was revealed. Moreover, I do not find it safe to vote against Crimea joining Russia, I am not sure who and how will they check the results. They may know my name and address afterwards.

    Patrick Jackson BBC News, Sevastopol

    tweets: Small but steady stream of voters despite heavy rain at Victory Avenue polling station, Sevastopol, #Crimea

    Voters in Sevastopol (16 March 2014)

    Some 1,205 polling stations are open across Crimea today. Some have experienced technical problems because of heavy rainfall. Phone lines and electricity are not working at a number of stations, the chairman of the referendum committee has said.


    Russian citizens are allowed to vote in Crimea's referendum, according to Oleksandr Chernenko who runs the Ukrainian Voters' Committee, a monitoring NGO. He made the remarks in a phone interview with Kiev-based 5 Kanal TV.


    Senior Russian MP Vyacheslav Nikonov earlier said Russia regarded Ukraine's revolution as a "coup masterminded mostly by the Americans... to bring Ukraine into Nato".

    "Russia regards this as an existential threat and will do whatever it takes to prevent it happening," he warned.

    Stephen, Yalta

    emails: My wife is Crimean Russian, and will be voting in favour of re-joining Russia. There has been a massive run on ATM'S and banks yesterday. Queues up to 10 metres long. The local money changers are cashing in on this. Buying and selling USA Dollars at a extortionate rates.


    Why is Ukraine, and in particular Crimea, of such significance to Moscow? Our correspondent Richar Galpin looks at Russia's fear factors in this comprehensive analysis.

    Cossacks in Simferopol

    A group of Russian Cossacks guard the regional parliament building in Simferopol. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, they have taken an active part in post-Soviet conflicts, including the Crimean crisis.


    Russian Cossacks were involved in beating pro-Ukrainian protesters at a rally in Kiev earlier this month. They used whips to lash the demonstrators, correspondents said.


    Crimea's Prime Minister Sergey Aksenov has praised Sunday's referendum.

    "I'm feeling great," he told Interfax news agency. "As you can see, people are voting freely, there are no problems at polling stations. I don't feel or see that any pressure is being applied [on voters]."


    Time Magazine reports that, on the eve of the referendum, gunmen stormed Simferopol's Moskva hotel where dozens of journalists - including a Time correspondent - were staying. Several of the reporters who tried to photograph the masked troops had their memory cards destroyed.

    Voter in Simferopol

    A man enters a polling booth draped in the colours of the Crimean flag in Simferopol. The peninsula and Russia share the same flag colours.


    The BBC's Patrick Jackson has just arrived in the Crimean city of Bakhchisarai. He says he has driven through a large road block manned by some 20 police, pro-Russian paramilitaries and Cossacks, with an armoured personnel carrier. Our reporter says security forces are only checking vehicles leaving Bakhchisarai, and he was not stopped on his way in.


    On Friday, Amnesty International warned Russian authorities had launched "a full-scale onslaught" on independent media in Russia and blocked their websites ahead of the referendum. Read the full statement here.


    The Crimean city of Bakhchisarai, where our reporter Patrick Jackson has just arrived, is home to many Muslim Tatars. They make up about 12% of the peninsula's population. The community says it fears returning to Moscow's rule and is boycotting the referendum.

    Daniel Sandford BBC News, Simferopol

    tweets: Lots of enthusiastic voting in school no 8 in Simferopol. Looks like all those voting are choosing to join Russia

    Voters in Simferopol (16 March 2014)
    09:56: BBC Monitoring

    reports: Turnout in the Crimean referendum "has gone through the roof", according to Serhiy Karnaukh, the acting mayor of the major resort city of Yalta.

    "Residents of Crimea, who are deciding the peninsula's fate today, are gripped with unusual excitement," he told the Ukrainian UNIAN news agency.


    The BBC's James Reynolds, in Simferopol, says there is no option for a straightforward no-vote on the ballot paper. "You can't come here and decide you want to keep the relationship with Ukraine the same," he told BBC Radio 4.


    As a reminder, the second question on the ballot paper asks voters whether they support the restoration of the 1992 Crimean constitution and the status of Crimea as a part of Ukraine.

    The wording doesn't make it clear whether this refers to the original version of the constitution, declaring Crimea an independent state, or the later amended version, in which Crimea was an autonomous republic within Ukraine. See our interactive explainer of the ballot paper.


    First polling results are expected to be announced around 22.30 local time (20.30 GMT) - just half an hour after voting closes.


    The referendum's results are pretty much a foregone conclusion, says the BBC's James Reynolds in Simferopol, with Crimea expected to rejoin Russia.


    "The authorities have been outlining their plans for celebrations and fireworks in the event of a yes victory," our correspondent told BBC Radio 4. "They probably wouldn't do that if they weren't that confident."

    Will Vernon BBC News, Simferopol

    tweets: Get your special referendum eggs here! Lady sells 10 eggs for 60p at polling station in #Crimea capital #Simferopol

    Egg vendor outside polling station in Simferopol (16 March 2014)

    Ukraine's acting defence minister says Kiev is redeploying troops to Ukraine's eastern and southern regions, and more than 40,000 people have volunteered to join the National Guard set up recently to respond to the Crimea crisis.


    "This is our land and we shall not leave it," acting Defence Minister Ihor Tenyukh told the Ukraine's Interfax news agency.

    Peter Leng BBC News, Bakhchiseray

    tweets: Maybe 80% of people in Bakhchiseray are Tatars. None we've spoken to are voting. Whole Tatar neighbourhood silent. #crimea #referendum


    Within two hours of polls opening this morning, 30% of registered voters had already cast their vote, according to referendum organiser Raisa Zamiatina.

    Protesters storm government office in Donetsk (15 March 2014)

    On the eve of the vote, violence broke out in the eastern city of Donetsk, where thousands of pro-Russia demonstrators stormed the local offices of the national security service, smashing windows, taking down the building's Ukrainian flag and raising a Russian one.


    The BBC's Steve Rosenberg says pro-Moscow supporters are expected to take to the streets of Donetsk again today. He has tweeted this photo of riot police shields lying outside the offices of the national security services

    Riot police shields in Donetsk (16 March 2014)

    "If we speak honestly, we're all afraid." This NY Times article explains why Crimean Tatars continue to live in fear of Moscow's power, 70 years after they were forcefully deported by Stalin during World War Two.

    10:56: BBC Monitoring

    reports that the leader of the Crimean Tatar ethnic minority, Refat Chubarov, has criticised today's referendum, calling it a "clown show" and a "circus". In an interview with Kiev-based Inter TV, he urged Crimean Tatars to boycott the vote.

    Steve Rosenberg BBC News, Donetsk

    tweets: Pro-Moscow speaker on Lenin Square in #Donetsk: "How dare they drag us to NATO & EU without asking us!"


    Crimea's parliament has scheduled a session for 10:00 local time (08:00 GMT) on Monday to approve the outcome of today's referendum, the peninsula's Prime Minister, Sergey Aksenov, has told Russian media.

    Map of Crimea

    If Crimea were to join Russia, it would be the latest of many changes to the map of Ukraine. The BBC's Bridget Kendall re-traces the nation's troubled past in this beautifully illustrated piece.

    Chris Morris BBC News, Kiev

    tweets: Sombre mood @ #Maidan in #Kiev, waiting for news from #Crimea. Still less than a month since 80+ people killed here.

    Maidan square in Kiev (16 March 2014)

    Dr James Summers, a British expert in international law, says Russia's annexation of Crimea would be the most serious violation of the UN Charter since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. "The referendum in itself violates international law, as it stems from an illegal act, the invasion of the Crimea, which it seeks to legitimise," he said.


    China said it had abstained from Saturday's vote on a UN draft resolution criticising the referendum because the move would "only result in confrontation and further complicate the situation".

    Tetiana Mishchenko, Ukraine

    emails: My name is Tetiana, I'm 20 years old, living in the Northern part of Ukraine. My family has set its roots both in Ukraine and Russia, and a great many of my close relatives have lived a happy life in Crimea, but now they have to leave their homes, the beautiful vineyards of Crimea because of Putin. I think Putin cannot deal with the fact that the whole world has moved on from regimes and their antidemocratic values a very long time ago.

    11:29: BBC Monitoring

    reports: Election official Mykhaylo Malyshev says there has been a "record-breaking turnout" of 44.27%, after six hours of voting.

    Maxim Eristavi Ukrainian journalist

    tweets: This @ukrpravda_news journo was allowed to vote in Crimea referendum. Even though she's a Russian citizen - @sosmaydan

    Voter in Crimea (16 March 2014)

    Ukraine's deputy foreign minister said his country was "under attack" and called on Russia to "stop this madness".

    "This referendum, this so called referendum is illegitimate and definitely we do not recognise it," Danylo Lubkivsky said.

    Karl Elmqvistovich, Sevastopol

    emails: I am really behind today's referendum, I am definitely voting to become part of Russia. Long live Putin!

    Gavin Lee BBC News, Sevastopol

    tweets: Hundreds of pro Russian voters making their way to Pushkin school polling station, here in #Sevastopol #Crimea

    Russian supporters carry flags in Sevastopol (16 March 2014)

    On Saturday, reports emerged that Russia had invaded Ukrainian territory just north of Crimea. Kiev accused Russian forces of seizing the village of Strilkove and demanded they withdraw immediately.


    An unnamed Russian official quoted by Pravda-Ukraine said they had taken action in Strilkove to protect a gas distribution station from "terrorist attacks".

    Vadim Bikmullin, Saint-Petersburg, Russia

    emails: Crimea is part of Russia. It is Russia. I don't care about what the EU, GB, G7, US are thinking about this.

    Russian supporters in Simferopol (16 March 2014)

    Pro-Russian demonstrators hold up large copies of the UN Charter on the right of self-determination outside the regional parliament building in Simferopol.


    Moscow-backed Crimea argues that a yes vote will protect the peninsula from the "radical nationalism" that toppled President Yanukovych last month. But the BBC's Richard Galpin says Russia's claim that the revolution had unleashed hordes of neo-Nazis determined to sweep across eastern Ukraine is merely a pretext to cover its real reason for the military intervention.


    Take a tour inside a polling station in Simferopol with the BBC's James Reynolds.


    German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier described the situation in Crimea as "combustible", and warned there would be sanctions if Russia annexed the peninsula.

    "We didn't ask for this confrontation, but if Russia doesn't come around at the last minute, EU foreign ministers will give an appropriate first response on Monday," he told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

    12:26: BBC Monitoring

    reports: Russian troops have placed several dozen anti-tank mines outside a base of Ukrainian marines in the Crimean town of Feodosiya, the UNIAN news agency reports, quoting the Ukrainian navy.

    12:27: BBC Monitoring

    reports: Russian security forces have also been throwing grenades into the water next to Ukrainian navy ships in Sevastopol's Kuryna Bay, according to the UNIAN news agency.


    More than 50% of Crimean voters have now cast their ballot in the referendum, parliamentary speaker Vladimir Konstantinov says.


    Up to 3,000 people have rallied in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, calling for stronger ties with Russia, Interfax reports.

    Ukrainian soldiers near Kharkiv (14 March 2014)

    On Friday, Ukrainian troops carried out a military exercise near Kharkiv. Acting President Olexander Turchynov earlier said he would not launch a military operation in Crimea because the move would expose the eastern border close to Russia.


    If you have just joined us, good afternoon and welcome to our live coverage of the Crimean referendum, where people are voting on whether to rejoin Russia or gain greater autonomy within Ukraine.


    So far more than 50% of registered voters have cast their ballot, according to election officials.


    "This is a historic moment, everyone will live happily," Crimean Prime Minister Sergiy Aksyonov told reporters after casting his vote in Simferopol. "We will celebrate this evening."

    Sergiy Aksyonov (16 March 2014)
    Artem, Crimea

    emails: I am not going to vote because I do not see any reason for that. Everything had been decided by Putin before the fact of an upcoming referendum was revealed. Moreover, I do not find it safe to vote against Crimea joining Russia, I am not sure who and how will check the results. They may know my name and address afterwards.


    Don't have much time? Here's a six-second look inside a polling station in Simferopol.

    Steve Rosenberg BBC News, Donetsk

    tweets: They've raised the Russian flag outside the Appeals Court, #Donetsk

    Russian flag in Donetsk

    US-based hackers attacked the official referendum website just hours before polls opened, according to Crimean election officials.

    "Our website was hit by a massive wave of... service attacks," authorities said in a statement carried by Russia's state-owned news agency RIA Novosti.

    Denys, Yalta, Ukraine

    emails: I don't think the majority of the Russian population respect the Ukrainian national idea. They do not learn the Ukrainian language. I see modern Russia as a descendant of Soviet Empire, whose predecessor was the Russian Empire, which first was the Tatar-Mongol Empire that shamelessly colonised more than a half of a continent. Ironically, Crimean Tatars, native people of Crimea, are even less respected amongst Russians here than us, Ukrainians. They were the majority here before Stalin deported them in their masses and replaced them with Russians.


    Pro-Russian protesters are trying to storm the regional prosecutor's office in Donetsk, chanting "Russia! Russia!". You can watch events unfold on Espreso TV's live stream.


    Russia has agreed to end its blockade of Ukraine's military bases in Crimea until 21 March, the Ukrainian defence minister says.


    Russian President Vladimir Putin says he is concerned over the escalation of tensions he says are caused by "radical groups" in southern and south-eastern parts of Ukraine, Reuters reports, quoting the Kremlin.

    Steve Rosenberg BBC News, Donetsk

    tweets: Crowd getting angrier outside Prosecutor's office; pushing against a fence; 2 police hurt in crush, helped by medics.

    Crowd trying to break in to Prosecutor's office; using Russian flag pile to break door; door open, crowd in; police withdrawn

    Breaking News

    Russian President Vladimir Putin tells German Chancellor Angela Merkel he is concerned by tensions in Ukraine's south-east.


    More from President Putin who, in his conversation with Angela Merkel, says Russia will respect the choice of the Crimean people - Kremlin statement.

    Officials wait for voters inside a polling station in Bakhchisaray

    Officials wait for voters inside a polling station in Bakhchisaray, southern Ukraine.


    The BBC's Steve Rosenberg reports from Donetsk, where a crowd of several thousand pro-Russian demonstrators have gathered and are on the move, he says, perhaps to the headquarters of the Ukrainian security services.

    Daniel Sandford BBC News, Simferopol
    High turnout at School no 2 Simferopol

    tweets: High turnout at School no 2 Simferopol

    13:52: BBC Monitoring

    Ukraine's acting Defence Minister Ihor Tenyukh has appeared on Kiev-based 5 Kanal TV to discuss a temporary truce agreed with Russia: "Until the 21 March, no measures will be taken aimed at blockading our military units. The situation in our military units is OK. Our sailors and pilots will be on the territory of their units in Crimea."


    Ihor Tenyukh adds: "The state's political leadership and the defence ministry will take decisions proceeding from the situation as it develops. Nobody is going to leave Crimea."


    In the Kremlin statement, President Putin expressed concern "about the escalation of tension in Ukraine's eastern and south-eastern regions by radical groups with the connivance of the Kiev authorities".

    Riot police stand guard in front of a regional government building as pro-Russian demonstrators take part in a rally in Kharkiv

    Riot police stand guard in front of a regional government building, as pro-Russian demonstrators take part in a rally in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine.


    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has urged his US counterpart John Kerry to use "US influence" to encourage the Kiev authorities to stop "massive lawlessness" towards the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine, a foreign ministry statement says, quoted by Reuters.


    Mr Lavrov told Mr Kerry that provocations by "ultra-nationalist and radical groups" led to casualties in south-eastern parts of Ukraine, according to Reuters.

    14:06: BBC Monitoring:

    Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk says his government will bring to justice "those ringleaders of separatism and division who now, under the cover of Russian troops, are trying to destroy Ukrainian independence," in remarks broadcast by 5 Kanal TV.

    14:07: Ben Brown BBC News, Simferopol

    says ethnic Russians there have been voting in force. The polling station was very busy earlier but, with just four hours left to vote, numbers are now "a bit thin", he adds.


    German Chancellor Angela Merkel tells President Putin that more OSCE observers should be sent to Ukraine, especially to hot spots in eastern Ukraine, Reuters reports.

    Voter in Simferopol

    One voter tells the BBC's Ben Brown, at a polling station in Simferopol, that the "majority of the population" there has voted to join Russia. The former English teacher says: "We prefer to live in a stable and peaceful country."


    More from the Ukrainian defence minister, who says Russia has amassed more than 60,000 troops along Ukraine's borders, quoted by Interfax-Ukraine news agency.


    Angela Merkel also condemned a Russian military incursion beyond Crimea, in the Kherson area, according to her spokesman.

    14:18: Chris Morris BBC News, Kiev

    tells BBC World TV: "When it boils down to it I think the message from the West is going to be pretty clear. If Russia does recognise the result of what the West describes as an illegal referendum in Crimea, then there will be serious consequences."


    The BBC's Olga Ivshina in Donetsk says a stand off between pro-Russian protesters and police in the eastern Ukrainian city is continuing, with several people injured on both sides.


    The protesters have moved onto a security service building, after failing to find the prosecutor who they believe unlawfully detained pro-Russian activists earlier last week, she adds.

    Steve Rosenberg BBC News, Donetsk
    Crowd on the move again, heading for local hq of security services in #Donetsk

    tweets: Crowd on the move again, heading for local hq of security services in #Donetsk

    Olga, Sevastopol, Crimea

    emails: I'm 38-years-old, I live in Sevastopol, I was born here and I am a Russian national. The Ukrainian's Bandera and Shukhevich - are now are the heroes of Ukraine and their names have been given to many streets in Ukraine, but they killed Ukrainian, Russian and Polish people. They are not heroes, they are fascists. I will go to the referendum and vote for my future and the future of my children, and I see this future with Russia and only with Russia."


    The Ukrainian prime minister, in a statement, calls for foreign observers from the OSCE to be urgently sent to the east and south of the country. OSCE delegates tried several times to enter Crimea last week, but were prevented from doing so by pro-Russian forces.

    Ballot paper

    What does the ballot paper look like? A copy released by the Crimean parliament appears to give voters two choices - to rejoin Russia or stay with Ukraine but with greater autonomy. Take an interactive look at the ballot paper here.


    Referendum expert Matt Qvortrup tells BBC World TV that if negotiations precede a referendum, war can be avoided. "If you don't have negotiations then almost inevitably they make things worse. They exacerbate conflict and often they lead to war," he says.


    In their second phone conversation in as many days, Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry agreed to seek a solution to the Ukrainian crisis by pushing for constitutional reforms, the Russian foreign ministry says, quoted by Reuters.

    14:34: Olga Ivshina BBC producer, Donetsk

    Pro-Russian protesters have broken into the security service headquarters.

    A policeman exits a voting booth after casting his vote in the village of Perevalne, southern Ukraine

    A policeman exits a polling booth after casting his vote in the village of Perevalne, southern Ukraine.


    Hackers brought down several public Nato websites over the weekend, with a group calling itself "Cyber Berkut" saying the attack had been carried out by patriotic Ukrainians angry over what they call Nato interference in their country, Reuters reports. The BBC has not independently verified the claim.

    Steve Rosenberg, BBC News, Donetsk

    tweets: Pro-Moscow protestors have again been trying to push their way into the security service hq in #Donetsk

    Pro-Moscow protesters outside security services building in Donetsk on 16 March 2014
    14:45: Olga Ivshina BBC producer, Donetsk

    Pro-Russian protesters break into security service headquarters. Police try to stop them. A few injured. Protesters demand to release pro-Russian activists arrested last week.

    14:55: BBC Monitoring

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has chaired a meeting of the country's security council that discussed "the situation in Ukraine and Crimea, and relations with partners in other countries", Russian state TV channel Rossiya 24 reports.

    14:56: BBC Monitoring

    "I want to note that, first of all, this is an intra-Ukrainian crisis. Unfortunately, we all understand that we have found ourselves involved in these events in one way or another. Let us think together about how we should build relations with our partners and friends in Ukraine and our other partners in Europe, the United States," Mr Putin was shown as saying.

    Steve Rosenberg BBC News, Donetsk

    tweets: Protesters say that if Pavel Gubarev [the protesters' unofficial leader] isn't released by tomorrow, they will gather outside the regional administration building in Donetsk


    The Kremlin says there is no reason to adjust Russia's foreign policy in response to criticism of its stance on Ukraine by other G8 nations, the Itar-Tass news agency reports - via Reuters.

    Al Bags, New York

    emails: Being of Lithuanian descent, am watching the unfolding events in Ukraine very closely. Typical old style Soviet land grab. Time to invoke the Stimson Doctrine which state the the US will never recognize any occupation or annexation done under force or duress.

    Police and pro-Russian supporters in a stand off in Donetsk on 16 March

    Tense stand off between police and hundreds of pro-Russian supporters in Donetsk.

    Ukraine's president fled Kiev after three months of protests and a new government has taken over

    A quick reminder of how the crisis in Ukraine unfolded, with some of the key events:

    • 21 Nov 2013: President Viktor Yanukovych abandons an EU deal
    • Dec: Pro-EU protesters occupy Kiev city hall and Independence Square
    • 20 Feb 2014: At least 88 people killed in 48 hours of bloodshed in Kiev
    • 22 Feb: Mr Yanukovych flees; parliament votes to remove him and calls election
    • 27-28 Feb: Pro-Russian gunmen seize key buildings in Crimean capital Simferopol
    • 6 Mar: Crimea's parliament asks to join Russia and sets referendum for 16 March
    • 15 Mar: Russia vetoes UN Security Council resolution condemning Crimea independence referendum
    • 16 Mar: Crimea goes to the polls

    You can also follow all the latest developments and analysis in our main BBC News Website story here.

    15:17: Peter Leng BBC News

    I met a Tatar group waving a large blue and yellow Ukrainian flag in Eski Sarai, about 20 minutes out of Simferopol. They said they refused to allow the referendum authorities to use one of their halls usually used for elections - so ensuring a local Tatar boycott of today's poll.


    The authorities in Kiev have announced a call-up to raise 20,000 men for a newly-created National Guard. "You will have the opportunity to defend the country, with the forces of the National Guard and the security forces," acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told a cabinet meeting, Reuters reports.

    An election official watches voting in a referendum at a polling station in Simferopol on 16 March 2014.

    There are reports of a high turnout in the Crimean capital of Simferopol.

    Adin of Crimea

    tweets: All this Media Fuss About Illegal # Crimea referendum.Turnout Could be 33%. It doesn't matter.Results could be 9% for RU. Outcome still same.

    15:35: BBC Monitoring reports:

    Members of a so-called self-defence unit in Crimea have attacked an Al-Jazeera TV crew and banned them from filming outside a polling station in Alushta, in the south of the peninsula, Ukrayinska Pravda website reports.


    Take a look at this video explainer by James Reynolds to see how the voting process works.

    Tomas, Tokyo

    emails: The only reason we have the current Crimea crisis is that the West, without a second of hesitation, approved the overthrow of a democratically-elected government in Ukraine. Had the West taken a second to think it through, there would have been plenty of scope to agree on constitutional reforms with Russia. This does not give Russia to act the way they are, but explains why.

    15:48: Matt Morelli

    sent the BBC this image from Senate Square, Helsinki, Finland on Sunday. Despite the cold and the snow a few hardy protesters gathered to oppose the referendum in Crimea.

    Protestors in Senate Square, Helsinki. Photo: Matt Morelli

    "They chanted in Russian for the TV camera and held aloft placards with English slogans written on them," says Matt. The crowd was "small, but passionate nonetheless," he adds.

    Demonstrators march through the streets of London on 16 March 2014

    Demonstrations against Russia's actions in Ukraine have also taken place in London on Sunday.


    Reports say the pro-Russian protesters in Donetsk have now left the local security services building, after several people managed to get inside the premises. A correspondent for Interfax-Ukraine says around 1,000 people are moving towards the nearby offices of one of Ukraine's largest steel groups, the Industrial Union of Donbass.

    16:05: BBC Monitoring reports:

    The offices of Prosvita, an NGO promoting Ukrainian culture, have been ransacked by pro-Russian demonstrators in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, Ukrayinska Pravda website reports.

    16:07: BBC Monitoring reports:

    Ukraine's Unian news agency says a cyber attack is currently targeting its official website: "We currently have reasons to link the activity of cyber terrorists against Unian with the events in Crimea and the Russian aggression against Ukraine," the agency reports.


    The EU considers the Crimea referendum to be "illegal and illegitimate and its outcome will not be recognised," a joint statement by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso says.

    16:08: BBC Monitoring reports:

    Journalist Slava Mavrichev, who is in Kharkiv, has posted photographs on Facebook of what he says are burnt books and a smashed up van.

    Rescue workers carry a wounded policeman in Donetsk on 16 March 2014

    Several people, including this policeman, were wounded as pro-Russian supporters stormed the prosecutor's office in Donetsk on Sunday.


    "Only working together through diplomatic processes, including direct discussions between the governments of Ukraine and Russia, can we find a solution to the crisis," the European Council statement adds. EU foreign ministers will consider possible measures in Brussels on Monday.


    US Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov that the Ukraine crisis can only be resolved politically and that Russia must pull back its forces and address the tensions and concerns about military engagement, a senior state department official tells the BBC.

    Steve Rosenberg, BBC News in Donetsk

    tweets: Donetsk evening. Protestors still on streets, marching to patriotic pop song: 'March March March! Russian March!'

    Protesters in Donetsk on 16 March 2014
    A Crimean man holds a Soviet Union flag in Simferopol's Lenin Square on 16 March 2014.

    A Crimean man holds up a Soviet Union flag in Simferopol's Lenin Square.


    Pro-Russians are starting to gather in central Simferopol waving their flags, reports the BBC's Ben Brown. They expect to celebrate what they hope will be a decisive victory in this referendum, a decision to reunite Crimea with Russia, he adds.


    John Kerry said that the US regarded the Crimea referendum as "illegal" and would not recognise its outcome, the US official said.

    Reshat, Simferopol, Crimea.

    emails: I'm a Crimean Tatar. This referendum is fiction and I'm not going to attend it. I believe the result of it has long been decided in the Kremlin. I think the real support for Russia is about 20%, but we will see different results. Russia's annexation of our native land is a disaster to Crimean Tatars.

    A woman sits at a polling station as people arrive to cast their ballots in Bakhchisaraj, Ukraine, on 16 March 2014.

    People poised to cast their vote in Bakhchisaray, where many Crimean Tatars have said they would boycott the referendum.


    As a reminder, voting is set to close at 20:00 (18:00 GMT) on Sunday. Preliminary results are expected to be released shortly after polling stations close.

    Russia President Vladimir Putin waves during the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games Closing Ceremony at Fisht Olympic Stadium on 16 March  2014 in Sochi

    The Paralympic Winter Games - which have been overshadowed by events in Crimea - are drawing to a close in Sochi. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is attending the closing ceremony, earlier thanked sporting officials for "keeping the Paralympics away from politics", AFP reports.

    Demonstrators take part in a pro-Russian rally in Odessa on 16 March 2014.

    Demonstrators have also participated in a pro-Russia march in Odessa, south-western Ukraine.


    There's still no sign from these latest contacts between Russia and the US of any narrowing of the differences between the West and Russia over the legitimacy of the Crimea referendum, says BBC correspondent Nick Childs.


    And there are worries about increased instability in the already-volatile east of Ukraine, he adds, hence Chancellor Merkel's proposal to send more international observers.


    One election observer in Sevastopol said voters were very keen to make their choice: "Today, by lunch time, 80% of voters had already come to the polling station. We don't know which way they voted, because it is their right to decide and we will know only after all votes are counted, but we see that voters are active as never before."

    Pro-Russian supporters dance as they celebrate in Sevastopol on 16 March 2014.

    Pro-Russian supporters dance as they celebrate the referendum in Sevastopol.

    17:16: Chris Morris BBC News, Kiev

    There is no carnival atmosphere in Kiev's Independence Square, which has now become a memorial site for those killed by snipers a month ago. People here are looking to see how strong the response to the referendum will be from Europe and the US.

    17:40: BBC Monitoring reports:

    The Interfax-Ukraine news agency says a Ukrainian Greek priest may have been seized by pro-Russian forces in Crimea. The priest reportedly phoned the church authorities at 12:00 GMT saying his flat was being stormed by police and pro-Russian "self-defence" forces.

    Negrobov Vasily who was too infirm to visit a polling station casts his vote at her home in a predominantly Russian area of Bachchisaray on 16 March 2014 in Bachchisaray, Ukraine.

    Referendum staff have been collecting votes from the elderly and people too sick to go out to the polls on Sunday.


    The director of the Eurasia Democracy Initiative, Peter Zalmayev, has just returned from Kiev where he met Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. He says Kiev will oppose a vote for Crimean secession in the courts but stands very little chance of success.


    Peter Zalmayev: "The government in Kiev will continue to question the validity of the referendum. At the same time it is very limited in what it can really do. I believe that at this point we may consider Crimea as lost to Ukraine."


    Many Crimean Tatars are unhappy with the two choices presented in the referendum and have threatened to boycott the vote. In this video, Nariman, from the mainly Tatar city of Bakhchisaray, explains his concerns.


    The BBC's Patrick Jackson has been speaking to a family who support Crimea joining Russia. Ivan, 85, says he expects to be "a little better off" if the peninsula breaks away from Ukraine. You can follow Patrick's live tweets from the western city of Yevpatoria here.

    Crimean family in the western city of Yevpatoria on 16 March 2014
    17:56: BBC Monitoring reports:

    The electoral commission in Sevastopol tells Interfax-Ukraine the turnout in the city reached 83.5% as of 16:00 GMT.

    Ukraine's Flagbearer and Cross Country skier Lyudmyla Pavlenko (front) enters the stadium during the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games Closing Ceremony on 16 March 2014

    Ukraine's flag-bearer and cross country skier Lyudmyla Pavlenko (front) enters the stadium during the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games closing ceremony on Sunday. Her top reads: "Peace"


    The polling stations are due to close around Crimea now, with officials suggesting the turnout is likely to be higher than 80%.

    People listen to a concert before the announcement of preliminary results of today's referendum on Lenin Square in the Crimean capital of Simferopol, on 16 March 2014.

    People listen to a concert before the announcement of preliminary results of Sunday's referendum in Lenin Square in the Crimean capital, Simferopol.


    Russia's Ria Novosti news agency says exit polls show that 93% of voters in Crimea supported a union with Russia.

    18:08: BBC Monitoring reports:

    Crimea's self-proclaimed prime minister, Sergei Aksyonov, has said that Crimea will become part of Russia in "as tight a timeframe as possible", the privately-owned Russian news agency Interfax reports.

    18:15: Breaking News

    Russian news agencies say around 93% of people who took part in the referendum in Crimea voted in favour of joining Russia.


    The White House says it rejects the Crimea referendum and calls Russia's actions "dangerous and destabilising", in a statement.


    More from the White House statement, which condemns Russia's action in Crimea: "We are long past the days when the international community will stand quietly by while one country forcibly seizes the territory of another. "

    Mark Lowen, BBC Athens correspondent

    tweets: Will "Russian Republic of Crimea" now become a new Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognised by only one country?

    People celebrate in Lenin Square after a day of voting on in Simferopol, Ukraine.

    More celebrations in Simferopol's Lenin Square. Exit polls say over 90% of the electorate voted to secede from Kiev and join Moscow.


    Crimea's pro-Moscow leader Sergei Aksyonov writes on Twitter: "Today we took a very important decision that will go down in history."


    The UK does not recognise the Crimea referendum which is in "in breach of the Ukrainian constitution and in defiance of calls by the international community for restraint," says Foreign Secretary William Hague.


    "Nothing in the way that the referendum has been conducted should convince anyone that it is a legitimate exercise," Mr Hague adds, urging Russia to enter into dialogue with Ukraine to resolve the crisis.

    Roland Oliphant, Telegraph correspondent

    tweets: Exit polls say 93 percent of those who voted back joining Russia. Prob true. But turnout, and hence size of boycott more telling figures...

    Christopher Miller, Kyiv Post

    tweets: @KyivPost journalists in Simferopol, Crimea not being allowed into polling station to observe ballots being counted.

    18:40: BBC Monitoring reports:

    The turnout in the Crimean referendum exceeded 80% across the peninsula and 85% in Sevastopol, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reports, quoting the Kryminform news agency website.


    There's been some very tough talking on Russian state television in the short time since the polls closed in Crimea, BBC Monitoring reports.


    In a polemic on Russian strength and American weakness, Dmitriy Kiselev, the outspoken presenter of the "Vesti Nedeli" weekly news roundup on official state channel Rossiya 1, boasted: "Russia is the only country in the world that is genuinely capable of turning the United States into radioactive ash."

    18:59: BBC Monitoring reports:

    Crimea's self-proclaimed prime minister, Sergei Aksyonov, has said that the Crimean parliament will hold a session on Monday and ask the Russian president to include Crimea in the Russian Federation, Interfax news agency reports.

    Officials start counting votes of today's referendum in the Crimean capital of Simferopol on 16 March 2014.

    The official vote count continues, as exit polls indicate an overwhelming show of support for Crimea joining Russia.


    French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says the Crimea referendum is illegal and goes against the Ukrainian constitution, Reuters reports.


    Mr Fabius also calls on Russia to take measures to reduce "pointless and dangerous" tensions in Ukraine.


    The BBC's Chris Morris in Kiev says there is "no celebration whatsoever" in Independence Square. "If Russia chooses to annex Crimea, there is not a lot the people in Kiev can do about that here."

    Ben Brown

    But in Crimea, the "carnival" atmosphere in central Simferopol is building, reports the BBC's Ben Brown. The crowds appear confident they will be celebrating more wildly when the official results are announced in a few hours, he says.


    emails: I am an ethnic Russian who was brought up in Ukraine, then went to live in Russia and in the UK. I feel sorry for Ukrainians. The country would have had a chance to become a prosperous European democracy if after disintegration of the USSR it had had political elite and civil society with strong sense of responsibility and identity. Instead corrupted and ineffective way of governing led to people's disillusions and desperation. 20 years ago people's mood and expectations were very different in both countries. Freedom, democracy, liberal values - we hoped to become a part of the free world.

    Mark Urban Diplomatic and defence editor, Newsnight

    tweets: Russian leader in #Crimea will ask to join Russian Fed tomorrw & send deleg to Moscow. Kremlin response offers Putin last opp to de-escalate

    19:26: BBC Monitoring reports

    Russian deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin congratulates Crimeans on a "great day after exit polls suggested that 93% of those who voted in Crimea's referendum had backed the idea of joining Russia".

    19:27: BBC Monitoring reports

    "With all my heart, I congratulate Crimeans and all my fellow citizens on a great day of victory for our country's national spirit and unity! Glory to Russia!" Mr Rogozin said in a tweet, after polls closed in Crimea and the Winter Paralympics drew to a close in the southern Russian resort of Sochi.

    Pro-Russian supporters burn a Right Sector scarf during a pro-Russian rally in Kharkiv, Ukraine

    Pro-Russian supporters burn a scarf of Ukrainian far-right group Right Sector, during a rally earlier in the north-east Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

    19:37: BBC Monitoring reports

    Ukrainian news agency UNN reports that Crimea's Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov is to fly to Russia with a delegation from the Crimean parliament on Monday. The visit will follow a session of parliament at 10:00 local time (08:00 GMT), which will sum up the results of the referendum.

    William Hague, UK foreign secretary

    tweets: UK will not recognise Crimea referendum and we are calling for strong EU response.

    This is the scene in Lenin Square, Simferopol
    This is the scene in Lenin Square, Simferopol
    This is the scene in Lenin Square, Simferopol

    This is the scene captured by BBC cameras in Lenin Square, Simferopol.


    Crimea's regional government will make a formal application on Monday to join the Russian Federation, Mr Aksyonov says in a tweet. "The Supreme Soviet of Crimea will make an official application for the republic to join the Russian Federation at a meeting on March 17."


    There has been little reaction on Ukrainian TV channels given the results of the Crimea vote, BBC Monitoring notes. The leading TV channels - such as Inter, One Plus One, ICTV - had covered the vote extensively throughout the day, calling it "illegal" and "unconstitutional", and carrying the voices of local Crimean residents, especially Tatars, complaining of intimidation and pressure.

    19:48: BBC Monitoring reports

    The head of the Crimean election commission, Mykhaylo Malyshev, says the commission received "no complaints" during the vote.


    Here's a quick reminder of events so far - about 93% of voters in Crimea have backed joining Russia and seceding from Ukraine, according to exit polls quoted by Russian news agencies. The polls closed at 18:00 GMT and preliminary results are expected within hours.


    You can also follow all the latest developments and analysis in our main BBC News story.

    20:04: Dan Turner

    tweets: As an American, I can't understand how Crimea can hold a vote w/o endless media debates and corporate donations.

    People in Lenin Square attend a pro Russian rally after a day of voting
    People in Lenin Square attend a pro Russian rally
    Pro-Russian supporters gather in Simferopol

    Some more images of jubilant scenes in Lenin Square, Simferopol.

    Breaking News

    Mikhail Malyshev, the head of the Crimea referendum organising commission, says turnout was 82.71%.

    Peter, Poltova, Ukraine

    emails: Yes. Crimea is Russia. We will be celebrating with our family tonight in Ukraine. My wife is Russian and is very pleased.

    Roland Oliphant, Telegraph correspondent

    tweets: This is going to cost Moscow a bunch. Lots of people today told me they voted yes because pensions, wages, infrastructure will be better.

    Breaking News

    Election officials say 95.5% of people have voted to rejoin Russia.


    Here's a round up of BBC reporter Patrick Jackson's tweets from his polling day lunch in Crimea.


    Senator John McCain and other Republican leaders say the White House hasn't gone far enough to contain Russian President Vladimir Putin, Time reports. McCain called for a "fundamental reassessment" of the US relationship with Moscow on CNN's State of the Union, it says.

    Ben Brown BBC News, Simferopol

    tweets: Party in Lenin Square just got much bigger. Singing, dancing in the streets, blowing horns, kissing. They certainly know how to celebrate!


    Election officials say the preliminary result is based on half of the votes counted. The other option in the poll - reverting to broad autonomy - gathered 3%.


    Russian President Vladimir Putin tells US President Barack Obama the Crimean referendum complies with international law, Reuters quotes a Kremlin statement as saying.

    Nadia, London

    emails: I am half-Russian, half-Ukrainian, living in London. We are celebrating! Crimea is Russia! Always has been, always will be. Glory to Sevastopol! I am sorry for Ukrainians in the Eastern and South Ukraine. I think a lot of them will emigrate to Crimea.


    Putin and Obama agree that, despite differences, there is a need to jointly seek ways to stabilise the situation in Ukraine - Kremlin statement via Reuters.


    Refat Chubarov, leader of the Crimean Tatar National Assembly, tells BBC Newshour there are fears among Crimean Tatars that they could be deported from the region again if it comes under Russian control.


    Mr Chubarov says: "Our serious worry is that there shouldn't be large scale provocations here. We try to prevent any type of ethnic violence here. The United Nations and European Council should search for a peaceful solution to this crisis."


    Mr Chubarov is referring to the mass deportation of Crimean Tatars to Central Asia and Siberia in 1944. They were accused by the then Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin of collaboration with the Nazis. To read more about Crimea's history, read our profile.

    Ben Brown BBC News, Simferopol

    tweets: Full results expected in about an hour. Result would be in line with exit poll of 93%. Whatever final result looks like will begin with a 9!

    Pro-Russian Crimeans gather to celebrate in Simferopol's Lenin Square on 16 March 2014
    Pro-Russian Crimeans gather to celebrate in Simferopol's Lenin Square on 16 March 2014
    A Crimean couple kiss as people celebrate in Simferopol's Lenin Square on 16 March  2014

    Pro-Russian Crimeans flock to Simferopol's Lenin Square to celebrate the preliminary results.


    A spokesman for UK Prime Minister David Cameron says: "We don't recognise the Crimea referendum or its outcome. We call on Russia to enter dialogue with Ukraine and resolve this crisis within international law."

    21:04: Beth McLeod BBC News, Washington

    says the US has strongly condemned the referendum in Crimea and it says the international community is in agreement with it. But the key question now is how swiftly and how forcibly the US and its European allies will respond with sanctions, she says.


    ITV's Europe editor James Mates tweets: Off. figs crimea 79% turnout, 95.5% yes to Russia. 12% of pop Tatar - boycotted. 10% ethnic Ukrainian. Suggests almost every Russian voted


    A young Tatar called Elvira tells the BBC's Newshour why she chose not to vote: "The referendum is illegal and therefore I didn't participate in it and also it didn't have any option for me that I would like. I would like Crimea to stay with Ukraine as it was."


    Elvira adds: "I'm concerned about Crimean Tatars [having to] deal with the Russian government again. You never know what to expect from a dictatorship. I think we won't have freedom of speech any more. We won't be able to participate in any changes. Our opinion won't be taken any more and won't be considered."

    Pro-Russian people celebrate in Lenin Square, in Simferopol, Ukraine, on 16 March 2014.

    The result has been greeted by raucous celebrations in the regional capital of Simferopol.

    Ọbalufọn Ligu Abeere

    tweets: The world recognized the secession of south Sudan to end a long civil. Let them recognize the secession of Crimea to forestall another war

    21:18: Chris Morris BBC News, Kiev

    tells BBC World TV there has been much reaction to the result - but "all the words in the world are not going to make a difference to the fact that Crimea is, in effect, now in Russian hands". "If Moscow and President Putin choose to go ahead with the annexation of Crimea there's not much that anyone can do to stop them," he adds.


    Refat Chubarov, leader of the Crimean Tatar National Assembly, tells Ukraine's Hromadske TV he estimates that only about 1% of Crimean Tatars took part in the referendum.

    21:22: Ben Brown BBC News, Simferopol

    says some Crimean parliamentary leaders have just taken to the stage in Lenin Square, where they received a rousing reception from the delighted crowd. The party here looks set to continue well into the night, he says.

    Pro-Russian people celebrate in Lenin Square, in Simferopol, Ukraine

    The pictures coming out of Lenin Square are a continuous stream of flag-waving and cheering Crimeans.

    21:24: Ben Brown BBC News, Simferopol

    tweets: Fireworks in Simferopol to celebrate referendum result Crimea.

    Fireworks in Simferopol to celebrate referendum result #Crimea.

    "It is our destiny, it is our future, for me and my country, and of course for Crimea," said 25-year-old Nathalie Kuntsova in a BBC interview earlier today on why she voted in favour of Crimea joining Russia.

    Gabriel Gatehouse BBC News correspondent

    tweets: Editor of Russia today, @M_Simonyan, tweets: #ДоброПожаловатьДомой": "Welcome home"

    Olexiy Solohubenko, editor, BBC global news

    tweets: Now 3 choices for Putin: annex now, expand into East Ukraine or delay to test what reaction to expect.

    Football fans display a Ukrainian Navy flag during a Ukrainian championship soccer match Dynamo Kiev vs Tavriya Simferopol, in Kiev on 16 March 2014.

    Football fans displayed a Ukrainian navy flag during a Ukrainian championship football match between Dynamo Kiev and Tavriya Simferopol in Kiev on Sunday.

    Front page of Monday's issue of Financial Times
    Front page of Monday's issue of International New York Times

    The Crimea vote looks set to dominate many of the papers on Monday.


    Watch Ben Brown's report on the election result from Simferopol.

    Franck, Denmark

    emails: All my in-laws are either Russian or Eastern Ukrainian. I want to ask those rejoicing at what is broadcasted as the result of a referendum: Why wasn't the OSCE allowed to monitor the fairness of the elections? Why were the questions for the referendum so biased to one side? Many countries would have accepted the choice of a population, if it had followed a fair process devoid of malevolent influence. Why then has this process been rushed? What proof is there of the fascists exactions that were the supposed reason given for such a turmoil?

    Chris Morris BBC News, Kiev

    tweets: #Ukrainian govt vows to hold 'separatist ringleaders' to account + starts to call up National Guard. Beyond that, it looks to West for help.

    Gavin Lee BBC News, Sevastapol

    tweets: Almost midnight here in #Sevastopol the celebrations continue amongst the pro #Russia supporters #Crimeareferendum

    Almost midnight here in #Sevastopol the celebrations continue amongst the pro #Russia supporters #Crimeareferendum
    Ben Tobias BBC News, Simferopol

    tweets: Fireworks in #simferopol to celebrate referendum result, "we're home" say the lights on the building. #Crimea

    Fireworks in #simferopol to celebrate referendum result, "we're home" say the lights on the building. #Crimea

    The speaker of Crimea's regional assembly says he expects a quick decision from Moscow on the region joining Russia. "I think that [Russia] will answer quickly, because you see what is happening to people, it is an important event, it is not only a Crimean event, it is a Russian and a global event," Vladimir Konstantinov tells Rossiya 24 news channel, Reuters reports.

    Crimean prime minister Sergei Aksyonov appears on stage in Lenin Square in the Crimean capital Simferopol to the Russian national anthem and in front of Russian flags
    Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov celebrates

    Crimean leader Sergei Aksyonov appears on stage in Lenin Square in the regional capital Simferopol to the Russian national anthem and in front of Russian flags. He tells cheering crowds the region is "going home".


    Barack Obama's deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes tweets confirmation of a call between the US president and Russia's President Putin earlier on Sunday. More details to follow, he adds.


    The readout of the phone call says US and European partners are prepared to "impose additional costs" on Russia for violating the Ukraine's sovereignty.


    According to the White House: "President Obama emphasized that the Crimean 'referendum', which violates the Ukrainian constitution and occurred under duress of Russian military intervention, would never be recognized by the United States and the international community."


    The White House also said that President Obama had "underscored that there remains a clear path for resolving this crisis diplomatically" but only if the Russian military stops "incursions" into Ukrainian territory.

    People sing the Russian national anthem as they celebrate in Simferopol's Lenin Square

    People sing the Russian national anthem as they celebrate in Simferopol's Lenin Square.

    Olga, Littlehampton

    emails: I am an ethnic Ukrainian living in the UK. Today me and all my family back home are celebrating Crimean choice! Never doubted the outcome of the referendum though. I am so happy they were strong enough to defend their right to determine their own future! I hope very much that people in rest of the south and east of Ukraine would be able to stand up for themselves now!

    Taras, Troy, USA

    emails: I grew up in Kiev before moving to the US. My family frequently vacationed in Crimea. It is such a beautiful place and it is very sad to see things come to this. It will always be Ukraine to me. I truly hope that this action will cost Putin dearly.


    More on the Obama-Putin phone call. In a statement (in Russian), the Kremlin said Mr Putin "drew attention to the inability and unwillingness of the current authorities in Kiev to curb ultra-nationalist and radical groups destabilising the situation and terrorising civilians".


    The Kremlin also said the two leaders discussed sending an OSCE monitoring mission to all regions of Ukraine.

    Olexiy Solohubenko, editor, BBC global news

    tweets: If Putin's choices are more or less clear, what about Ukrainian government? Military option ruled out, diplomacy hazy. Give up on Crimea?

    Artists of the Russian Black Sea fleet dance and music groups perform for pro-Russian people celebrating in Lenin Square, in Simferopol, Ukraine, on 16 March 2014.

    A parting shot from Simferopol's Lenin Square, where artists of the Russian Black Sea Fleet dance and music groups perform for pro-Russians celebrating the outcome of the vote.


    This brings an end to our live updates of the Crimea referendum, which saw some 95.5% of the electorate voting in favour of joining Russia - according to official figures based on half the ballots counted. Thanks for staying with us. You can continue to get the latest updates on this story and other stories on the BBC News website.


Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.