In an election condemned by the United States, Europe and the Ukrainian government, voters in Crimea reportedly backed a referendum to split from Ukraine and become a part of Russia.
The opposing nations deemed the elections as illegal and destabilizing, calling it a cynical power play and land grab by Russia, while Ukraine’s new government in Kiev called the referendum a ‘circus’.
According to Fox News, soon after the vote, which election officials said stood at 95 percent with more than half of the ballots counted, the Russian flag was hoisted along with a display of fireworks in the presence of a much delighted crowd.
Following the vote, US president Barack Obama spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the White House said that it would reject the results of the referendum held "under threats of violence and intimidation."
The referendum comes two weeks after Russian-led forces’ much criticised invasion of Crimea.
Image: Pro-Russian protesters with Russian flags take part in a rally in central Donetsk. Photographer: Reuters