SIMFEROPOL, Crimea, March 17 (Xinhua) -- A whopping 96.6 percent of Crimean voters chose to join Russia in Sunday's referendum on the status of Ukraine's autonomous republic, according to the latest official results.
The Crimea referendum commission said only 2.55 percent of voters chose to stay with Ukraine but with greater autonomy. Crimea has a population of about 2 million, of which just over 1.5 million were eligible to vote.
Crimeans in Simferopol and Sevastopol were seen celebrating the outcome of the referendum late Sunday night and early Monday morning.
Most, when asked, expressed their confidence this, the third such referendum in the peninsula's history, would direct them "home" to Russia.
The Crimea Peninsula, historically part of the Russian Federation, was transferred to Ukraine in May 1954, then a republic of the Soviet Union.
In May 1992, the Crimean Supreme Council (parliament) declared independence, pending a referendum, which was called off by the Ukrainian authorities.
Crimea held two other referenda, in 1991 and 1994, to test voters' preference for greater autonomy within Ukraine or uniting with Russia.
The supreme council decided on March 6 this year to hold the latest referendum, which was originally scheduled for March 30, after the new Ukrainian government decided to remove Russian as the official language on the peninsula.
The Crimean Supreme Council passed a resolution declaring independence on March 11 to pave the way for Sunday's referendum.
Putin tells Obama Crimea referendum legal
MOSCOW, March 17 (Xinhua) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin told his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama in an early Monday call that the Crimea referendum was totally legal, while the White House rejected the results.
Putin said the referendum, which concluded at 20:00 p.m. local time (1800 GMT), fully complied with international law, according to the Kremlin website. Full story
U.S. not to recognize Crimean referendum: Obama
WASHINGTON, March 16 (Xinhua) -- President Barack Obama said on Sunday the United States will not recognize the Crimean referendum, vowing to impose fresh sanctions on Russia.
In his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the phone, the American leader said the vote in the Ukraine's autonomous republic violated the Ukrainian constitution and was conducted "under duress of Russian military intervention," the White House said in a readout of the conversation. Full story