Big surprise, eh? No one took this seriously before it took place, and no one will take it seriously after the votes are counted. No one, that is, except for the occupying power in Crimea that forced the referendum in the first place. Russia and its new puppet regional government on the peninsula are reported record turnout and a 93% vote for annexation to its former sovereign, while the US and West denounced the entire exercise as just a pretense for a land grab:

Supporters of Crimea’s attempt to secede from Ukraine and join Russia have flocked to vote in a referendum denounced by Kiev and Western powers.

Polls closed at 18:00 GMT and officials hailed a “record” turnout. Preliminary results were expected within hours.

A vast majority of voters interviewed by journalists backed secession. Many opponents boycotted the vote.

The White House has officially rejected the results and the referendum itself, saying it occurred under duress:

The White House says Sunday’s referendum on secession is contrary to Ukraine’s constitution.

The U.S. says the world won’t recognize the results of a vote held under what it says are “threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention that violates international law.”

A written statement from the White House calls Russia’s actions in Ukraine “dangerous and destabilizing.”

The U.S. is urging other nations to “take concrete steps to impose costs” against Russia.

Secession was expected to be approved overwhelmingly.

John McCain uses a better word than referendum, one which I have used purposefully all along:

“Look, it is a bogus thing. We used to call it plebiscite in the days of Hitler and Stalin. It is a done deal,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

McCain and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine have a running bet on how lopsided the vote will be. McCain thinks the referendum will be approved with 70 percent of the vote. …

“The United States of America, first of all, has to have a fundamental re-assessment of our relationship with Vladimir Putin. No more reset buttons, no more tell Vladimir I’ll be more flexible,” he said.

He’s right, but it’s too late for that now. Putin has already taken his measure of the West. Expect the annexation to happen immediately — and then wait for the inevitable repeat in eastern Ukraine, too.