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March 07, 2014 AT 9:59 AM
Russia has been swept up in patriotic fervor for bringing Crimea, its old imperial jewel, back into its territory. Tens of thousands of people thronged Red Square on Friday waving flags and chanting "Crimea is Russia!" while a parliamentary leader promised the peninsula would be welcomed as an "equal subject" of Russia. Crimea now belongs to Ukraine, but the local parliament has called a March 16 referendum on whether the semi-autonomous region should join Russia, a move President Barack Obama has called a violation of international law. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that sanctions over Russian actions in Crimea could backfire, the ministry said in a statement.