Crimean officials have announced that 95.5% of voters in the referendum support joining Russia, with around half the votes counted.
Crimea’s de facto prime minister, Sergei Aksyonov has said that he will apply to join Russia on Monday on the basis of the results.
Crimeans loyal to Kiev boycotted the vote in response the the Russian military movements in Crimea in recent weeks, as Russian President Vladimir Putin sent soldiers into the region without admitting his actions, and without the soldiers’ uniforms carrying Russian insignia.
Putin’s actions were a response to the ousting of pro-Russia Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych in February after months of pro-Europe protests, which in turn led to pro-Russia protests in Crimea, where a large number of ethnic Russians live.
Kiev has rejected the referendum, with the Ukrainian prime minister describing it as illegal:
The EU has condemned the referendum, saying in a statement:
The referendum is illegal and illegitimate and its outcome will not be recognised…
We reiterate the strong condemnation of the unprovoked violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and call on Russia to withdraw its armed forces to their pre-crisis numbers and the areas of their permanent stationing, in accordance with relevant agreements.
Putin has discussed the referendum with US President Barack Obama, and according to the Kremlin the pair agreed to seek a way to stabilise Ukraine.
Both the EU and US are expected to impose further sanctions on Russian officials over the country’s ongoing interference in Crimea.