Simferopol (Ukraine) (AFP) - 16:00 GMT - Journalists declined entry - In Crimea, Cossacks and pro-Moscow militias have been seen patrolling at some polling stations and Russian flags were being flown everywhere from city buses to convoys of bikers roaming the streets, our correspondent Dario Thuburn reports. Accredited journalists including some from AFP have been prevented from entering polling stations in the port city of Sevastopol and the regional capital Simferopol, and several people were seen voting in Sevastopol before the polls officially opened, Thuburn writes. Foreign observers were present but security watchdog the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) declined an invitation to monitor saying it was not official as it did not come from Ukraine's national government. With the mass deportations by Stalin in 1944 still fresh in their memories, Tatars have opposed Crimea becoming part of Russia from the start and called for a boycott of the referendum.
By Mariam Karouny and Stephen Kalin BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian forces backed by Hezbollah militants took full control of the town of Yabroud on Sunday after driving out rebels, helping President Bashar al-Assad secure the land route connecting the capital Damascus with Aleppo and the Mediterranean coast. The fall of Yabroud, the last rebel bastion near the Lebanese border, could sever a vital insurgent supply line from Lebanon and consolidate government control over a swathe of territory from Damascus to the central city of Homs. A military source told Reuters that about 1,000 militants from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front had held out on Saturday to fight government forces which had entered eastern districts of Yabroud and captured several hilltops. Hezbollah-operated Al Manar television broadcast scenes from Yabroud's main square where people walked around and talked in apparent safety.