The Crimean region voted on Sunday about whether to demand greater autonomy from Ukraine or split off and seek to join Russia, in a referendum that has been condemned as illegal by the United States and European countries. (March 16)
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Simferopol, Ukraine - March 16, 2014
1. Wide of first voters entering 'School No 10' polling station in Simferopol
2. Mid of voters registering
3. Mid of election official checking voter's documents
4. Zoom in of ballot boxes
5. Mid of voters casting ballots and walking away
6. Zoom in of ballot box
7. Wide interior of polling station
8. Mid of head of Crimea's unrecognised Russian-backed government, Sergei Aksyonov, registering to vote
9. Wide of Aksyonov signing documents and walking to voting booth
10. Mid of Aksyonov casting ballot
11. Wide of voters in polling station
Residents of Ukraine's Crimea region are voting in a contentious referendum on whether to split off and seek annexation by Russia.
One of the first to vote was the head of Crimea's unrecognised Russian-backed government Sergei Aksyonov.
He cast his vote in the regional capital Simferopol moments after the polls opened.
The Sunday vote is regarded as illegitimate both by the acting Ukrainian government and by the West, but is widely expected to pass.
Crimea is predominantly ethnic Russian, and its residents say they fear that the government that took over when pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted last month will oppress them.
Since Yanukovych fled to Russia, Crimea has come under control of local militia forces, as well as heavily armed troops under apparent command from Moscow.
If the referendum passes, Russia faces the prospect of sanctions from Western nations.