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SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Residents of Ukraine's Crimea region are voting in a contentious referendum on whether to split off and seek annexation by Russia.

The Sunday vote is regarded as illegitimate both by the acting Ukrainian government and by the West, but is widely expected to pass. Crimea is predominantly ethnic Russian, and its residents say they fear that the government that took over when pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted last month will oppress them.

Since Yanukovych fled to Russia, Crimea has come under control of local militia forces, as well as heavily armed troops under apparent command from Moscow.

If the referendum passes, Russia faces the prospect of sanctions from Western nations.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Associated Press,

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