The Crimea peninsula held its hastily convened referendum on Sunday, asking voters whether or not they want to reunify with Russia. According to initial exit polls provided by election officials, more than 90 percent of voters chose “yes”.
In the short run-up to the referendum, rival rallies were held around the region but few were in any doubt what the results would ultimately be. Days before, a giant Russian flag flew on the grounds of parliament, while symbols of support for reunification and for Russia were widespread.
A prominent “yes” campaign saw posters promoting the idea of Crimea and Russia together, but there was no sign of a “no” campaign and pro-Ukrainian media reportedly were restricted.
On the day of the election, a steady stream of voters passed through the numerous polling booths, dropping their ballot papers into transparent boxes where there were few signs of votes against reunification.
Upon exiting the polling stations, numerous voters expressed their anger at the new government in Kiev as well as their historic and current social, cultural and economic ties with Russia.
Despite the apparently high turnout, the minority Crimean Tatar community chose to boycott the vote, while others expressed their frustration over the lack of options presented on the ballot.
Before the polls closed, people started to gather in Lenin Square, the central square in the Crimean capital of Simferopol, to celebrate the victory even before the official announcement.