Pro-Russian men carry Crimean flags on Simferopol's Lenin Square on March 16, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ Filippo MONTEFORTE
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Crimeans voted in a referendum on Sunday on whether to break away from Ukraine and join Russia, with Kiev accusing Moscow of rapidly building up its armed forces on the peninsula in "crude violation" of an international treaty.Caught in an East-West crisis reminiscent of the Cold War, Ukrainian acting defence minister Ihor Tenyukh said Russian troop numbers in Crimea were now almost double the level agreed with Moscow, and Kiev's forces were taking "appropriate measures" along the border with Russia.Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected the Western accusations, telling his U.S. counterpart John Kerry that the referendum complied with international law.Both the West and Kiev have been powerless to stop the referendum. Crimea's 1.5 million voters have two options: union with Russia or giving their region, which is controlled by pro-Kremlin politicians, the broad right to determine its own path and choose relations with whom it wants -- including Moscow.Others see the referendum as a land grab by the Kremlin from Ukraine, whose new rulers want to move the country towards the European Union and away from Russia's sway.On Saturday night, about 30 men in balaclavas with automatic weapons barged into the Hotel Moscow, a Soviet-era hotel where many Western reporters covering Sunday's referendum are staying.
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