Legal or not, Russia supporters in Crimea look forward to referendum

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- NATO said Monday it plans to send airborne warning and control system reconnaissance planes over Poland and Romania to monitor Russian forces in Ukraine.

Russia invaded the section known as Crimea more than a week ago, and plans to hold a referendum on Crimea joining the Russian Federation next Sunday.

It's not a celebration yet, but pro-Russian demonstrators in Crimea feel that victory is just around the corner.

At the local Crimean government offices, they're drawing up a list of polling stations for the referendum.

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Pro-Russia demonstrators in Crimea say they are eager to leave Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.
CBS News
When CBS News asked whether the vote would be free and fair, the man in charge, Valery Medvedev, was indignant.

"How can I prove that to you?" he said. "But my hands are clean."

Russian forces and paramilitaries have now seized most of the Crimea's border posts.

Ukrainian soldiers and sailors still loyal to Kiev are cut off with no prospect of reinforcements.

Last week, one Ukrainian warship crew had attached mattresses to their vessels to repel Russian soldiers in the event of an attack. They've taken down the mattresses now.

"Well, we realized the Russians wouldn't attack," said one naval officer.

Firmly in control now, the Russians even let the Ukrainian sailors come and go by dinghy, which means they can vote in the referendum.

"We'll do it in," the officer said. "A few sailors at a time."

But they will probably be outvoted by people like Tanya Ismeeva, who sells souvenirs to supplement her pension of $100 a month.

If Crimea joins Russia, she says, her pension will grow quite a bit.

"Three or for times as much," she said.

She's not alone. Hundreds of thousands of Crimeans believe life would be better with Moscow in charge. If the United States and Europe say their referendum is illegal, they simply won't care.

There is a deep historical and emotional tie to Russia in Crimea. People will say, "Look, we may have been Ukrainian for a few brief decades, but we've been Russian for more than 200 years."


  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."

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