Small group of protesters urge other nations to stop Crimea vote



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SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — A Ukrainian clergyman is urging the international community to step in and stop the vote scheduled for later this month in Crimea -- where residents will be asked if they want to be a part of Russia.

The Ukrainian Orthodox bishop was among dozens of people who turned out today for a rally in Crimea's capital. He said the referendum is "completely illegal" -- and that the situation in Crimea "will end in slaughter."

One of the demonstrators says he's opposed to the occupation of Crimea by Russian troops, and that he's "against being forced to live in a different country."

The demonstrators spoke both Ukrainian and Russian, but they waved Ukrainian flags.

Yesterday, the parliament of Crimea voted to hold the referendum on March 16th. It will give Crimea residents just two options -- to join Russia or to stay with Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country has no intention of annexing Crimea, while insisting that residents have the right to determine the status of the region.

The speaker of Russia's upper houses of parliament met today with the head of the Crimean parliament -- and said Crimea would be welcome as an equal part of Russia if residents vote to leave Ukraine.

President Barack Obama says the referendum would violate international law.

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