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SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — As Russian flags fluttered in the breeze and retirees grew weepy at the thought of reuniting with Russia, residents of Ukraine's Crimea region held a secession vote Sunday. The United States and Europe condemned the referendum as illegal, while Ukraine's new government called it a "circus" directed at gunpoint by Moscow.
Simferopol (Ukraine) (AFP) - 18:25 GMT - 'Berkuts' embraced - A woman in red embraces and thanks, one-by-one, the Berkuts (the elite riot police kicked out of Kiev) who are back on the streets of Simferopol, AFP's Kilian Fichou reports from the Crimean capital.
Simferopol (Ukraine) (AFP) - Crimeans voted overwhelmingly Sunday in favour of joining former political master Russia as tensions soared in the east of the splintered ex-Soviet nation amid the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War. Exit polls cited by local officials showed 93 percent of the voters in favour of leaving Ukraine and joining Russia in the most serious redrawing of the map of Europe since Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia. Honestly, I'm 60 and I never thought I would live to see this happy day," said Alexander Sorokin as he strolled the waterfront of Sevastopol -- home of tsarist and Kremlin navies since the 18th century and a city that like most of the peninsula is heavily Russified. Ukraine's new pro-European leaders and the West have branded the vote as "illegal" because the strategic Black Sea peninsula has been under de facto control of Russian forces since the start of the month.