Despite international condemnation of yesterday's referendum, Crimea is moving closer to joining the Russian Federation. Officials in the regional capital of Simferopol announced that 96.7 of voters supported a secession from Ukraine.
Government officials have given Crimeans the day off work today after declaring their independence from Ukraine. Sergei Aksyonov, the new prime minister of Crimea, told Russian state television that a delegation from the region will be arriving in Moscow to discuss the annexation process. According to the New York Times, Russian president Vladimir Putin has not declared his intent to annex Crimea as of this morning, but he's scheduled to make a speech on the issue tomorrow.
The Ukrainian government has previously deemed the referendum illegal. Neither the United States nor the European Union are recognizing the results. Since yesterday's vote, US and EU officials have also frozen assets and placed travel bans on the people they deemed responsible for Russia's intervention in the Black Sea peninsula. The EU has not published their 21-person list, but Reuters reports President Obama has sanctioned 11 Russians and Ukrainians, including two aides to Putin and former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich.
Election officials in Crimea say yesterday's one-sided results came from an 83 percent voter turnout. Ethnic Russians make up about 60 percent of Crimea's population and many ethnic Tatars and Sunni Muslims in Crimea (who combined make up 12 percent of the population) had previously said they would boycott the election.
Via Reuters photographers, a look around Crimea yesterday as it prepared to cast and count ballots for the controversial referendum:
Top image: An official waits for voters during the referendum on the status of Ukraine's Crimea region at a polling station in a predominantly Tatar district of the town of Bakhchisaray March 16, 2014. (REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin)