In Crimea, voting is underway in a controversial referendum that will decide whether the peninsula rejoins Russia, or stays in Ukraine.
The Black Sea regions ethnic Tatars plan to boycott the poll.
Despite that, Crimeans are expected to back a break-away from Kyiv, a move widely predicted to prompt Western sanctions.
Earlier, Sergei Aksyonov, the leader of Crimea’s Russian backed government cast his vote in the region’s capital Simferopol.
Unrecognised by Kyiv and accused of tilting the vote in Moscow’s favour, the man, who is also nicknamed the Goblin, refuted claims the ballot had been rigged.
“You can see, free voting is taking place, people are coming to polling stations freely. There are no problems. Personally, I don’t feel any pressure,’‘ Aksyonov said.
But even if Crimea, in the unlikely event did opt to stay in Ukraine, the vote ensures it is granted greater autonomy.
Around 1.5 million people are eligible to vote in the Black Sea region with provisional results due late on Sunday. The final tally is expected one or two days later.
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