by Xinhua writer Gaochao Yi
SIMFEROPOL, March 15 (Xinhua) -- Early-risers still went jogging or walked dogs in parks; readers still toured weekend open-air book fairs; nature lovers still visited the annual spring fair for flower seeds and plants.
But for the loud patches of white, blue and red lining streets and squares, Simferopol residents would have taken this Saturday as just another weekend.
The 2014 Crimea referendum is slated for Sunday and more than 1.5 million ballots have been printed and distributed as the Autonomous Republic of Crimea prepares to decide its future status.
Sunday's poll will be the third referendum in Crimean history on which national flag will fly over the peninsula.
Crimea conducted referendums back in 1991 and 1994, both approving greater autonomy within Ukraine.
Saturday was pronounced a "silence day" for campaigners from varying camps and yet even motorcades of newlyweds could not help flying the white, blue and red colors out of their car windows.
Crimea's own flag bears the same three colors as the Russian flag, only in a different order and in different sized bands.
A local painter, who preferred anonymity, said voters would choose annexation to Russia on Sunday because they could not live with the "ultra-right" government in Kiev.
When asked whether incidents could happen, as they did in Kiev in late February, the artist just looked away.
Apart from uniformed police officers patrolling the streets, there appeared more volunteers, all wearing red bands on their arms.
Sergey Aksenov, chairman of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea council of ministers, on Friday entrusted local law-enforcers, the security service and self-defense units with the maintenance of public order, especially around the 1,203 polling stations.
The Crimean police will mobilize 2,400 law-enforcers to join security service and self-defense units on the day of referendum.
"All personnel of the Crimean Police will focus on their faithful performance of duties, vigilance and determination, with the possibility of aggravation of the situation," a police statement said.
As of late Friday, 69 international observers from 21 countries had been registered with the All-Crimean Referendum Commission.
The observers have arrived in Simferopol from Belgium, China, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, Spain and the United States, according to the commission's press service.
When asked at a media briefing Friday what would happen if Ukraine cut off supplies of electricity and water to the peninsula to hinder voting, Aksenov said it would just be a business issue.
A young local reporter, who identified himself as Andrej, said: "No worries; no one can stop it now. Voters will opt for Russia."