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Ukraine Crisis: Eastern Rebels Hold Self-Rule Referendums


Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s two eastern regions are to hold “self-rule” referendums – a move condemned by Kiev and the West.

Self-proclaimed leaders in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions are going ahead with the vote despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call to postpone it.

Ukraine says the vote could result in the “self-destruction” of the regions.

Pro-Russian gunmen occupying offices in a number of towns have been involved in heavy clashes with Ukrainian troops.

Reports say there was a fierce fighting overnight on the outskirts of the rebel-held city of Sloviansk, which remains sealed by government troops conducting what Ukraine describes as an “anti-terror” operation.

In the port of Mariupol, also in the Donetsk region, at least seven people were killed and 39 injured in clashes between the two sides on Friday, according to official figures.

The organisers of the referendums said earlier this week that most of the polling stations were being controlled by pro-Russian activists and would be ready for voting

Millions of ballot papers have been prepared.

They contain only one question in both Ukrainian and Russian: “Do you support the act of state self-rule of the Donetsk People’s Republic/Luhansk People’s Republic?”

The organisers have suggested they intend to hold a second round later in the month – this time on joining Russia. They also say they will be boycotting Ukraine’s presidential elections on 25 May.

On Saturday, Ukraine’s interim President Olexandr Turchynov admitted many in eastern Ukraine supported the pro-Russian militants, but warned that the referendums were “a step towards the abyss”.

“Those who advocate self-determination do not understand that this will mean the total collapse of the economy, of social programmes, and of life in general for the majority of people in these regions,” he said.


The EU and US have also condemned the referendums, amid fears that Ukraine could be sliding to civil war

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