Polling in the region ended at 8 p.m. local time Sunday. The ballot posed just one question -- would residents rather stay with Ukraine, or be annexed by Russia? With roughly half of the ballots counted, Crimea's election chief said Sunday that approximately 95 percent of the vote so far favors rejoining Russia.
However, some believe Sunday's vote was an exercise in futility -- as U.S. and other Western officials have repeatedly said that the referendum is a violation of international law and the results, whichever side they favor, would not be enforced. The United Nations also proposed a resolution effectively calling the referendum illegal.
A referendum of any kind is nothing more than a gauge of the public's feeling on a particular matter, meaning the vote itself does not change the law. In this case, it means that Russia would next be required to take legally binding action to annex Crimea. The Crimean parliament will meet Monday to formally ask Moscow to be annexed and lawmakers will fly to Moscow later in the day for talks, Crimea's pro-Russia prime minister said on Twitter.
The United States and Europe are condemning the referendum as illegal and destabilizing and are expected to slap strong sanctions against Russia for it, perhaps as soon as Monday
Ukraine's new government in Kiev called the referendum a "circus" directed at gunpoint by Moscow -- referring to the thousands of Russian troops now in the strategic Black Sea peninsula after seizing it two weeks ago.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken a tremendous political beating over the last few weeks due to his government's activity in the Crimean peninsula. Ukrainian officials have particularly been critical of the Russian leader, especially over his attempts at what they say amounts to a military invasion.
Some critics have theorized that the military incursion in Ukraine is driven by Putin's longing to restore his country's former Soviet glory.
Copyright 2014 Inergize Digital and the Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.