In what will likely come as little surprise to anyone who has been following the events in Ukraine, Russian state media are reporting that early exit polls show Crimea has voted to break with Ukraine and join Russia.  Official results are expected later.

From Reuters:

Russian state media said Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to break with Ukraine and join Russia on Sunday, as Kiev accused Moscow of pouring forces into the peninsula and warned separatist leaders “the ground will burn under their feet”.

RIA news agency said 93 percent backed annexation, citing an exit poll released as voting ended at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT). Another Russian agency said turnout was over 80 percent.

Caught in an East-West crisis reminiscent of the Cold War, Kiev said Russia’s build-up of forces in the Black Sea region was in “crude violation” of an international treaty, and announced plans to arm and train 20,000 members of a newly-created National Guard to defend the nation.

The White House had already denounced the vote ahead of the official results, calling the referendum illegal and citing Russian intimidation.

From the Associated Press via ABC News:

The U.S. rejected the Crimea secession referendum Sunday as illegal and readied retaliatory penalties against Russia, while shifting sights to deterring possible military advances elsewhere in Ukraine that could inflame the crisis.

Even before official results were announced, the White House denounced the vote on Crimea joining Russia, saying it violated Ukraine’s constitution and international law and was held under “threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention.”

It said “no decisions should be made about the future of Ukraine without the Ukrainian government” and noted that Russia had rejected the deployment of international monitors in Crimea to ensure the rights of ethnic Russians there were protected.

“Russia has spurned those calls as well as outreach from the Ukrainian government and instead has escalated its military intervention into Crimea and initiated threatening military exercises on Ukraine’s eastern border,” the White House said.

“Russia’s actions are dangerous and destabilizing,” the White House said.

U.S. officials reaffirmed that the Obama administration will, along with the European Union, impose penalties on Russia if it annexes the strategic region. They also warned that any Russia moves on east and south Ukraine would be a grave escalation requiring additional responses.

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[Featured image: BBC News video]