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Ukraine braced Saturday for a highly-charged breakaway vote in Crimea which is likely to see the peninsula annexed by Russia despite the threat of stiff sanctions, and push East-West tensions to breaking point. An eleventh-hour diplomatic push by the United States to stop the referendum from going ahead failed on Friday, with Moscow refusing to make any decisions until after Crimea votes on a spilt from Ukraine on Sunday. Crimeans can either vote to join Russia or for "the significant strengthening of their autonomy within Ukraine". World leaders are likely to step up pressure in the final hours before Sunday's vote, expected to swing easily in favour of Russia despite discontent from the Muslim Tatar minority that makes up 12 percent of Crimea's total population of two million.