Pro-Russians Declare Ukraine Referendum Victory
The results are in from a referendum vote held Sunday by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region. The voting, which was slammed by Ukraine as a "criminal farce," ended with 89% in favor of "self-rule."
Ukraine's foreign ministry criticized the referendum as being "inspired, organized and funded by the Kremlin." It added "the Ukrainian people does not recognize any terrorist referendums in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and also in Crimea," referencing the Russian annexation of Crimea in March, after a de facto military invasion sparked an uprising and referendum.
The US and European Union (EU) similarly condemned the "illegal" vote, which according to BBC was characterized by chaos, with no electoral register and many locations devoid of voting booths. Many towns refused to hold the referendum, according to reports.
Russia has yet to comment on the referendum, which occurred as separatists ignored Russian President Vladimir Putin's calls to delay the vote for the sake of dialogue between the separatists and Ukraine.
Despite the talk of dialogue and moderation, 40,000 Russian troops are reportedly massed near the Ukrainian border. While Putin has claimed to have pulled the troops back, NATO reports it has seen no sign of a troop withdrawal.
The referendum vote asked only one question: "Do you support the Act of State Self-Rule of the Donetsk People's Republic/Luhansk People's Republic?" The pro-Russian forces behind the referendum claimed turnout was 75%.
The 89% support for the vote runs counter to a Pew Research Center poll from this month, which found that 70% of eastern Ukraine opposes splitting from Ukraine, with a mere 18% favoring secession.
Donetsk separatist leader Denis Pushilin stated that after all the referendum results were collected, Ukrainian troops in the eastern region would become "occupying forces." Results from Luhansk, another eastern region of Ukraine, are expected later on Monday.
Next week another round of referendums is planned, this time on whether or not to join Russia.