SIMFEROPOL – 95.5% of the Crimean voters has said “yes” to the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula by Russia, in a referendum that has been declared illegal by the international community.

At 18.07 GMT, when 50% of the were already counted, the preliminary results showed that 95.5% of the Crimeans have voted “yes” and less than 5% of them voted “no”. The overall turnout for this referendum is 81.37% according to Mikhail Malyshev, head of the Crimean parliament’s commission on the referendum.

In the capital of Crimea, Simferopol, thousands people have cheerfully gathered in Lenin square to watch a live concert while waiting for the official final results. 58% of the Crimean population is of Russian descent and Sevastopol is home to  Russia’s Black Sea fleet.

As the results seem to confirm what has been predicted in the past weeks, the Crimean PM,  Sergey Aksyonov, and his government have already started planning the next moves. Tomorrow, while the international observers led by Polish MP Mateush Piskorski will present their findings on the referendum, Mr Aksyonov’s government will start the procedures for the annexation of Crimea by Russia. The government will furthermore introduce next week the Russian ruble as second official currency, along with the Ukrainian hryvna.

Tomorrow will also be the day when the EU foreign ministers will decide on the sanctions on  to impose to Russian officials, after Russia’s occupation of Crimea and of some regions in Eastern Ukraine and support to the referendum, which it defined as “illegal and illegitimate”. On March 21, the EU and Ukraine will sign a political agreement that would bring Kiev closer to Brussels. On the same day, the truce called in the past days between Russia and Ukraine will come to an end.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Stefano DucCorrespondent (Europe)

Image Courtesy: Wiki Commons