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Ukraine and the Crimean referendum

In a few hours from now, polls will open in Crimea Ukraine for citizens to cast "Yes or No" votes for Crimea to be controlled by Russia.

As noted by the Washington Post earlier today,

The vote will be held under the eyes of Russian troops, who effectively took control of Crimea late last month after protesters overthrew the Ukrainian government. A Ukrainian Defense Ministry official said that a column of about 50 armored vehicles from the Russian Federation was observed Friday night moving from the city of Feodosia to Dzhankoi in northern Crimea. Ukrainian military spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov said that more Russian troops have moved in to occupy Ukrainian military bases that had been abandoned long before the crisis began.

Moscow’s tightening grip on Crimea and the gathering of Russian troops along the countries’ border have unnerved Ukrainians and left the country’s fledgling government concerned about further Russian military action. Kerry said the United States was “deeply concerned” about those deployments.

The Post also reported that Russian troops had advanced further north to take control of a natural gas distribution point in the village of Strilkove Ukraine. It was estimated that about 80 troops with support from armored vehicles and helicopters were used by the Russian military forces to accomplish this task.

Russian troops in four helicopter gunships and three armored combat vehicles descended on the natural gas facility near the village of Strilkove about 1:30 p.m. local time, according to Ukrainian officials. The Russians said they had seized the site out of fears it would be targeted by “terrorists,” according to a Ukrainian Defense Ministry official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Ukraine has continued to denounce the Russian military actions as well as the referendum vote on Sunday.

The Post is also reporting that support for the Russian intervention in Crimea does not have universal support in Russia. Tens of thousands expressed their opposition today in the streets of Red Square in front of the Kremlin today. "In Moscow, tens of thousands turn out to protest Russian intervention in Ukraine."

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