Crimean Tatars held protests in the peninsula on Friday ahead of a referendum to join Russia. Around 500 demonstrators took to the streets demanding President Vladimir Putin ‘‘go away’‘ and for ‘‘Russian soldiers to return home’‘. Native to Crimea, the minority Tatars branded Sunday’s poll illegal vowing a boycott of the break-away ballot.
“We are in Crimea, which has always been, is and will be part of Ukraine. We don’t need Russia, we don’t need their help, nor do we need their protection. We don’t need protection from anyone,’‘ one protester said.
Despite the protest, billboard advertising and electoral posters have been put up across Crimea promoting the vote and pro-Russian sentiment remains high – several cars flying Russia’s flag passed by during the Tatar protest.
Meanwhile, in east Crimea, what appeared to be several Russian vehicles armed with heavy cannons, were spotted in the city of Kerch. It remains unclear where the column was headed or where it came from.