Receive Breaking News updates as they occur
By Richard Balmforth and Mike Collett-White KIEV/SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (Reuters) - Pro-Russian leaders in Crimea made final preparations on Saturday for a referendum widely expected to transfer control of the Black Sea region from Ukraine to Moscow, despite an outcry and threat of sanctions from the West. Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that declared the referendum invalid, as Ukraine's defense ministry scrambled aircraft and paratroopers to confront what it said was a Russian encroachment just beyond Crimea's formal regional boundary. Ukraine's new rulers accused "Kremlin agents" of fomenting violence in the Russian-speaking east of the country. They urged people not to respond to provocations that Kiev fears Moscow may use to justify further incursions after its takeover of Crimea.
Simferopol (Ukraine) (AFP) - Crimea braced for a referendum on Sunday on whether to leave Ukraine and join Russia, escalating a Cold War-style security crisis on Europe's eastern edge that has left diplomacy in disarray. The choice is between becoming part of Russia or taking more powers but staying in Ukraine -- and a vote for the status quo is not an option. Polls open at 0600 GMT and close at 1800 GMT, with initial results soon after -- although rehearsals for the big day including the slogan "We are in Russia!" beamed onto a government building left no doubt as to the outcome. The West has said it will not recognise the referendum, while Moscow insists it is an example of self-determination like Kosovo.