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Insurgents in East Ukraine Declare Independence
May 16, 2014

Pro-Russia insurgents in Ukraine’s Donetsk and other regions declared independence on and asked to join Russia, after holding a hastily arranged vote on separatism that Ukraine’s Government and its western allies said violated international law.

After that Russia urged Ukraine’s Government in Kiev to hold talks with the pro-Russia insurgents in the east. Organisers of the referendum said about 90 per cent of those who cast ballots in Donetsk and the neighbouring Luhansk region backed sovereignty for the sprawling areas that lie along Russia’s border and form Ukraine’s industrial heartland. Donetsk has about 4.4 million people and Luhansk has 2.2 million.

Donetsk and Luhansk region decided that they will not vote in Ukraine’s May 25 presidential election. Ukraine’s central Government and the West have completely rejected insurgent vote and accused Russia of fomenting weeks of unrest in eastern Ukraine in a possible attempt to grab more land after annexing Crimea in March, accusations that Russia has denied.

The interim Government in Kiev had been hoping the presidential vote would unify the country behind a new, democratically chosen leadership. Ukraine’s crisis could grow even worse if regions start rejecting the presidential vote. Russian President’s office voiced hope that the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe could help broker talks between the central Government and the two provinces. The cautious stance, which contrasted with Russia’s quick annexation of Crimea after a separatist vote there, appeared to show Russia favouring a negotiated solution to what has become the worst crisis between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

The pro-Russia insurgents who organised vote for referendum claimed 89 per cent of those who cast ballots in the Donetsk region and about 96 per cent of those who turned out in the neighbouring Luhansk region voted for sovereignty.The insurgents said turnout topped 70 percent, but with no international election monitors around it was impossible to confirm such claims. Russia raised the stakes in the Ukraine crisis after the vote by saying it respected what rebels claimed was a resounding vote in favour of self-rule in the east of the country. But, Russia also called for dialogue between authorities in Kiev and rebel leaders. 


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