Crimeans OK Ukraine exit, Russia union

West slams referendum, vows economic sanctions

Posted: March 17, 2014 at 4:22 a.m.

Referendum officials empty ballot boxes to begin counting votes at a polling station in Simferopol, Ukraine, Sunday, March 16, 2014. Polls have closed in Crimea's contentious referendum on seceding from Ukraine and seeking annexation by Russia. The vote, unrecognized both by the Ukrainian government and the West, was held Sunday as Russian flags fluttered in the breeze and retirees grew weepy at the thought of reuniting with Russia. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — Just two weeks after Russian troops seized their peninsula, Crimeans voted Sunday to leave Ukraine and join Russia, overwhelmingly approving a referendum that sought to reunite the strategically important Black Sea region with the country it was part of for more than two centuries.

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