Residents of Crimea have begun voting Sunday on the contentious question of whether to split from Ukraine and join Russia.
Although Western governments consider the vote illegitimate, the referendum is widely expected to pass. Crimea's parliament has already voted to seek annexation by Russia.
NPR's Gregory Warner reports that pro-Ukrainian activists inside Crimea have called for a boycott of the election, saying it was called prematurely and without debate.
But the Crimean peninsula is predominantly ethnic Russian, and residents say they fear being oppressed by the interim Ukrainian government that took over when President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February. Yanukovych fled to Russia after months of protest and bloodshed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he will respect the voters' decision. The U.S. and EU have warned that annexation would prompted more economic sanctions against Russia.
Russia voted on Saturday against a UN resolution condemning Sunday's vote, the only Security Council member to do so.
Russian troops have taken control of government buildings and military bases in Crimea since Yanukovych fled. On Saturday, Russian troops made what was apparently their first foray outside Crimea, crossing the border to take over a natural gas plant that serves the region.
With hundreds upon hundreds of bands and tens of thousands of music lovers descending upon Austin for just five days, South by Southwest moves pretty fast. So we slowed it down for you. Because they're awfully considerate, NPR Music's video team — led by Mito Habe-Evans — picked out some of the fastest moments at SXSW 2014 and made them go real slow.
There's something about the way that Future Islands lead singer Samuel Herring moves that's hypnotic. If you've been trying to follow along with his steps, here's the place to start. Just a few seconds of the band's Thursday night set at Cheer Up Charlie's, but with the brakes on, so you can catch every undulation.
The Trophy Club on 6th Street in Austin has windows open wide to the street, and through them our video guru Mito Habe-Evans sat and watched the mechanical bull tempt the brave and stupid alike for nearly 30 minutes late on Thursday night. Other people would try the bull and fall off immediately, but these guys have clearly had some practice.
On Friday, NPR Music took over the back yard of local boutique/coffee shop Friends & Neighbors to shoot a series of short concert videos. One of those sets was by the mambo band Sergio Mendoza y La Orkesta. Here, the fancy feet of singer Salvador Duran-Maracas double as stomping, percussion.
Occasionally in Austin, you come across crowds in the street, usually gathered around a drummer or a band that's starting the party. This time, there was just a crowd, and music coming out of a nearby storefront and lots of jumping.
You know what's happening here. It's just more fun to see it in slo-mo.
World music DJ Betto Arcos is a frequent guest for weekends on All Things Considered, and he's noticed a curious trend recently — something he likes to call "musical encounters."
"You have musicians who are originally based in the Middle East, or come from the Middle East — specifically Lebanon, Syria and Tunisia — and they're coming together with musicians from the western part of the world, specifically from Europe," Arcos says.
Host Arun Rath sat down with Arcos to talk about a few musicians who have twisted strands of Middle Eastern music together with influences from France, Spain, Sweden and more. Hear their conversation at the audio link, and listen to some of his picks below.