Residents of the Crimea region on Sunday began voting in a referendum to secede from Ukraine and seek annexation by Russia. The referendum has been condemned as illegal by the US and other European countries. On Saturday, Russia vetoed [UN News Centre report] a UN Security Council motion declaring the Crimea referendum invalid. The UN resolution was backed by 13 members, with China abstaining from voting before it was vetoed by Russia. If Crimea passes the referendum, Russia will face international sanctions from Western nations. The Crimea polls opened at 8 AM local time on Sunday and will continue until 8 PM. Results are expected to be announced Sunday evening.
Crimea's cry for independence is the latest incident escalating tensions [BBC timeline] in the region. Earlier this week, Crimea's parliament voted to secede [JURIST report] from Ukraine and declare itself an independent state in the event of a yes vote in Sunday's poll. Protests erupted in Crimea last month decrying the recent ousting of Ukraine's president Viktor Yanukovich and campaigning for annexation with Russia. Russian forces quickly moved in to control the region allegedly to protect their national interests and ethnic Russians in Ukraine. US President Barack Obama condemned [JURIST report] Russia's use of armed forces calling it a violation of Ukrainian sovereignty. Last week the Crimean Parliament requested [JURIST report] permission from the Russian government to join its Federation. The pro-Russian Crimean Parliament denies [Forbes report] the legitimacy of Ukraine's new pro-western government which has issued a warrant for Yanukovich's arrest for the killing of civilians during protests in Ukraine's capital of Kiev.