Mar. 16 - As residents of the Ukrainian region of Crimea go to the polls to decide whether to rejoin Russia, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United Nations says he has received a phone call saying that Russians paratroopers have crossed the Crimean border into the Ukrainian mainland. Sarah Toms reports.
Tensions are at an all time high in the Ukrainian region of Crimea on the day of a referendum to decide whether to rejoin Russia. Here in the Crimean capital a group of armed policemen burst into a hotel, where many international correspondents have been staying. Some police officers say it was a planned drill, while Ukrainian officials say it was in reaction to a false tip off. Here outside Simeropol, though, it's no drill…troops -- presumed to be Russian - are deployed to reinforce a Ukrainian military base. It's part of a major buildup of Russian military across Crimea. Pro-Russian forces seized this area when Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich was ousted in February after months of protests. But now Kiev says Russian paratroopers have crossed the Crimean border and seized a village in mainland Ukrain. (SOUNDBITE) (English) YURIY SERGEYEV, UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N., SAYING: " This is something which is changing the situation dramatically. So today we started speaking about referendum, about the territorial integrity of Ukraine within this peninsula, and now they have moved further. They moved to the mainland. And what is the final destination? We got no answer. We go no answer from Russian colleagues and so on." Residents in Crimea are expected to vote to be part of Russia by a landslide. Ukraine and the West condemn the referendum as illegal but it's backed by Moscow and many people here in this mainly ethnic Russian region, who want to maintain their close ties to their eastern neighbour.