The Ran GTPase controls multiple cellular processes, including nuclear transport, mitotic checkpoints, spindle assembly and post-mitotic nuclear envelope reassembly. Here we examine the mitotic function of Crm1, the Ran-GTP-binding nuclear export receptor for leucine-rich cargo (bearing nuclear export sequence) and Snurportin-1 (ref. 3). We find that Crm1 localizes to kinetochores, and that Crm1 ternary complex assembly is essential for Ran-GTP-dependent recruitment of Ran GTPase-activating protein 1 (Ran-GAP1) and Ran-binding protein 2 (Ran-BP2) to kinetochores. We further show that Crm1 inhibition by leptomycin B disrupts mitotic progression and chromosome segregation. Analysis of spindles within leptomycin B-treated cells shows that their centromeres were under increased tension. In leptomycin B-treated cells, centromeres frequently associated with continuous microtubule bundles that spanned the centromeres, indicating that their kinetochores do not maintain discrete end-on attachments to single kinetochore fibres. Similar spindle defects were observed in temperature-sensitive Ran pathway mutants (tsBN2 cells). Taken together, our findings demonstrate that Crm1 and Ran-GTP are essential for Ran-BP2/Ran-GAP1 recruitment to kinetochores, for definition of kinetochore fibres and for chromosome segregation at anaphase. Thus, Crm1 is a critical Ran-GTP effector for mitotic spindle assembly and function in somatic cells.