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Polling stations at referendum in Crimea open in Crimea’s Simferopol

Crimean residents are choosing their future - to reunite with Russia or to remain an autonomy

SIMFEROPOL, March 16, /ITAR-TASS/. Polling stations for voting at an all-Crimea referendum over determination of further fate of the peninsula opened in the Crimean city of Simferopol on Sunday. Crimean residents are choosing their future - to reunite with Russia or to remain an autonomy.

Voters are offered to answer two following questions: 1) Do you support reunification of Crimea with the Russian Federation as a constituent member of the Russian Federation?

2) Do you support the reinstatement of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Crimea and Crimea’s status as part of Ukraine?

Ballot papers for the referendum have been printed in three languages - Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean-Tatar. Many Crimean residents note that earlier ballot papers were only in the Ukrainian language during all elections, and even the names of parties were not always clear as they sounded unfamiliar. International observers, who have arrived in Crimea, have praised this novelty of the local authorities.

Participation in the voting will be possible only at the place of registration. The referendum commission opted against the use of absentee ballots. Crimean residents staying abroad won’t be able to vote either.

The polling stations opened at 8 am, local time (10 am Moscow time) on Sunday. The voting will last 12 hours and will end at 8 pm (10 pm Moscow time). It is expected that the data from exit polls, organized by the republican Institute for Sociological Studies at the order of KrymInform news agency, will be known right after the polling stations closed.

Kiev and the West consider the referendum illegitimate. Simferopol replies that it is the present-day Kiev authorities that are unlawful, which is why one should not take orders from it. According to Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksenov, nobody has abolished the right to self-determination, and the Western countries must “have a closer look at norms of international law”. “Even under the Ukrainian constitution, it is the people who are bearers of sovereignty and the sole source of power, and nobody can usurp their power, it is primary and nobody should have doubts as to the legitimacy of the referendum,” the Crimean Supreme Council said.

Crimean self-defence units will also help protect law and order. According to official government appraisals, their strength is some 10,000 people. They are already controlling entries to the territory of all government facilities, administrative buildings as well as Ukrainian military units in Crimea. These are well-organized groups of 15 to 20 people. They also patrol streets and check vehicles.

The first official results of the referendum would be made public before the end of the day, the head of the Supreme’s referendum commission Mikhail Malyshev said. The final results will be summed up already on Monday, March 17.

Concerts are scheduled on Simferopol’s Lenin Square on Sunday evening.