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In Simferopol, Crimea’s capital, a crowd of more than 4,000 people turned out Sunday to endorse unification with Russia. On Lenin Square, a naval band played World War II songs as old women sang along, and dozens of tricolor Russian flags fluttered in the cold wind.
"Russians are our brothers," Crimean Parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantinov said. He asked the crowd how it would vote in the referendum a week hence.
"Russia! Russia!" came the loud answer.
"We are going back home to the motherland," said Konstantinov.
Across town, at a park where a large bust of Shevchenko stands, around 500 people, some wearing yellow-and-blue Ukrainian flags on their shoulders like capes, came out to oppose unification with Russia.
They chanted "No to the referendum!" and "Ukraine!" People handed out fliers, one of which listed the economic woes that joining Russia would supposedly cause.
"We will not allow a foreign boot that wants to stand on the heads of our children," said one of the speakers, Alla Petrova. "The people are not scared. We are not scared to come out here and speak."
Some pro-Russians drove by, shouting "Moscow, Moscow!" from their cars, but there was no trouble.
Associated Press reporters in Crimea said all Ukrainian television channels appeared to have been taken off the air by Sunday evening, save for one that appeared to rebroadcasting programs from Moscow-based Russia-24.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who appeared on the BBC Sunday morning, described Russia’s entering Crimea as a "big miscalculation."
He also said the March 16 referendum was happening "ridiculously quickly." Hague added, "The world will not be able to regard that as free or fair."
During his conversations with Cameron and Merkel, Putin criticized the Western leaders for what he said was their failure to press the new government in Kiev to curb ultranationalist and radical forces.
But the Kremlin also said that despite their differences, the three leaders expressed an interest in reducing tensions and normalizing the situation in Ukraine as soon as possible.
Berry reported from Moscow. Danica Kirka in London and Tim Sullivan and Mike Eckel in Simferopol contributed.
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