Voters in Crimea have overwhelmingly backed breaking away from Ukraine to join Russia, paving the way for sanctions by the West which has dismissed the poll as a “sham”.
With half the votes counted, results showed more than 95% of voters supported a union with Russia, on a turnout of 83%.
The White House restated its rejection of the referendum in the southern Black Sea region and branded Russia’s actions “dangerous and destabilising”.
Hinting at additional sanctions, Barack Obama told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin the West was ready to “impose additional costs” on Moscow for violating Ukraine’s sovereignty.
European diplomats have been drawing up a list of Russian officials who will be hit with travel bans and asset freezes.
However, Mr Putin insisted the vote was legal and promised to “respect” the result.
Crimea’s regional government will make a formal application to join Russia on Monday, its pro-Moscow leader Sergei Aksyonov said on Twitter.
Even before the official results were announced, thousands gathered in the Crimean capital Simferopol, waving Russian and Crimean flags.
People also turned out to celebrate in Sevastopol, where the Russian navy’s Black Sea Fleet is based…. see more