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Insurgents say Ukraine region opts for sovereignty

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) - Ninety percent of voters in a key industrial region in eastern Ukraine came out in favor of sovereignty Sunday, pro-Russian insurgents said in announcing preliminary results of a twin referendum that is certain to deepen the turmoil in the country.

Roman Lyagin, election chief of the self-styled Donetsk People's Republic, said around 75 percent of the Donetsk region's 3 million or so eligible voters cast ballots, and the vast majority backed self-rule.

With no international election monitors in place, it was all but impossible to verify the insurgents' claims. The preliminary vote count was announced just two hours after the polls closed in an election conducted via paper ballots.

A second referendum organized by pro-Russian separatists was held Sunday in eastern Ukraine's industrial Luhansk region, but no immediate results were released.

Ukraine's central government and the West had condemned the balloting as a sham and a violation of international law, and they have accused Moscow of orchestrating the unrest in a possible attempt to grab another piece of the country weeks after the annexation of Crimea.

Eastern Ukrainian Regions Hold Referendum On 'Self-Rule'

The results of the two referendums could hasten the breakup of the country and worsen what is already the gravest crisis between the West and Russia since the end of the Cold War.

Although the voting in the two regions with a combined population of 6.5 million appeared mostly peaceful, armed men identified as members of the Ukrainian national guard opened fire on a crowd outside the town hall in Krasnoarmeisk, and an official with the region's insurgents said people were killed. It was not clear how many.

The bloodshed took place hours after dozens of armed men shut down the voting in the town.

The shooting starkly demonstrated the hair-trigger tensions in the east, where pro-Russian separatists have seized government buildings and clashed with Ukrainian forces over the past month.

Even before the results were announced, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry called the twin referendums a "criminal farce." The U.S. and other Western governments said they wouldn't recognize the outcome.

Earlier in the day, the head of the referendum organizers in Donetsk said the ultimate status of the region would be discussed later and would include the possibility of secession or annexation by Russia.

"We are just saying to the world that we want changes, we want to be heard," election commission head Roman Lyagin said.

The violence in Krasnoarmeisk, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the regional capital, Donetsk, came hours after armed men, one of whom said they were from the national guard, put a stop to the voting and took control of town hall.

In the evening, more armed men arrived in a van, and a scuffle broke out with people gathered around the building. Then the men fired shots.

An Associated Press photographer who witnessed the shooting said two people lay motionless on the ground. Insurgent leader Denis Pushilin was quoted by the ITAR-Tass news agency as saying there were an unspecified number of deaths.

Over the past few weeks, the Ukrainian government and the West have accused Russia of trying to destabilize the country or create a pretext for another invasion. Russia - which annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula just days after voters there approved secession in a March referendum - has rejected the accusations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had asked the organizers of the latest referendums to delay the vote in an apparent attempt to ease the crisis. The insurgents refused.

At one polling station at a school in Donetsk, turnout was brisk in the first hour of voting. All voting slips that could be seen in the clear ballot boxes showed that self-rule had been selected.

Most opponents of sovereignty appeared likely to stay away from the polls rather than risk drawing attention to themselves.

Darya, a 25-year-old medical worker who would not give her last name, said she saw no point in casting a ballot, since the vote had no legal force.

"There were no notices about this referendum anywhere, about where and when it was happening," she said. "In any case, it is not valid, so there was no reason to take part."

There were no immediate signs of any outright intimidation by pro-Russian forces Sunday, and insurgents near the polls were not wearing their usual balaclavas.

The haphazard nature of the referendums was in full display at Spartak, a leafy village on the fringes of Donetsk.

Villagers were unable to vote for about three hours after the polls opened because election officials failed to bring a ballot box. Finally, an election organizer arrived with a voting urn crudely fashioned from cardboard boxes and sealed with tape.

Most present said they were voting in favor of autonomy and against the interim government headed by acting President Oleksandr Turchynov. One said she would not take part in a nationwide presidential election set for May 25.

"I don't agree with what is happening in the country. And I want some changes for the better. What is happening on May 25 is not honest, truthful or in our best interests. And that is why I am voting today," said Irina Zelyonova, 30, cradling her baby in her arms.

Turchynov and Ukraine's caretaker government came to power in February following the ouster of Kremlin-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych after months of protests in Kiev. Moscow and many in Ukraine's east have accused the new government of intending to trample the rights of eastern Ukraine's Russian-speakers.

More than 30 people have been reported killed since Ukrainian forces began trying to retake some eastern cities from the insurgents.


Mark Rachkevych in Kiev, Ukraine, contributed to this report. AP photographer Manu Brabo contributed from Krasnoarmeisk.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
stephen284 May 11 2014 at 9:25 PM

Welcome to Leftist/Communist/Progressive governance. As always with these Commies, they first disarm the population in the guise of saving them. Then, after all are without a means of defense, the Commies kill those who would speak against them. Then, of course, they blame all on those who are their opponents. It's a well documented process that the Communists have since their rise to power.

You are seeing a version of it here in the good ole USA. Yes, Saul Alinisky trained Obama, his leftist hordes, and of course his (former?) terrorist friends who are now teaching at our colleges, also subscribe to this thought process.

People in the USA better wake up to this threat, before they wake up and find themselves without any rights whatsoever!

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2 replies
audioknot1 stephen284 May 11 2014 at 9:33 PM

This is not about America, this about Ukraine. We love President Obama. Go get or Swasitka and take our meds. Stop provoking Russia. This is a legitimate election. The people of Ukrain have spoken.

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1 reply
marvdumart audioknot1 May 11 2014 at 10:46 PM

Some of them multiple times by putting more than 1 ballot in the ballot box at once. And don't forget the 100K ballots that were premarked that were found in a hiding place with fake names.

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ronbobel7 stephen284 May 11 2014 at 9:36 PM

colleges in the US are mostly liberal because they have the most intelligent people unlike the red necks and the NRA.

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ARBITRAJ May 11 2014 at 9:34 PM

hahahaha...all of that, because the 're "still searching for sadam's hidden stash of weapons"....hahahaha

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ddoddr9623 May 11 2014 at 9:34 PM

So in Ukraine they shoot you for voting. Heck, I'd want to break off too. Most dictatorships and Juntas shoot you for NOT voting!
I do like the idea of paper ballots and a big glass box to put them in rather than pushing a button on a computer.

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ronbobel7 May 11 2014 at 9:33 PM

the coup in kiev which overthrew an elected government has brought about the revolt in the east and south. who can believe western propaganda any more than russian propaganda? the separtists have legitimate complaints.

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2 replies
armafacts ronbobel7 May 11 2014 at 9:39 PM

I think we should believe Putin and his thugs

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marvdumart ronbobel7 May 11 2014 at 10:39 PM

The coup ousted a corrupt , russian aligned government that was storing riches for itself/ Nothing legit about it.

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Wizard May 11 2014 at 9:32 PM

These sobs are going to have a civil war and only god knows how it will end, see how the shooting and murder is now escalating its only a matter of time before you see even more and Obama just sits back and does nothing.

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r1234598760 May 11 2014 at 9:48 PM

Well keep the United States out of it

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opticianandynj4u May 11 2014 at 9:28 PM


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John Roberson May 11 2014 at 9:28 PM

Of course the west is going to say a democratic vote of the people in eastern Ukraine is illegitimate because it is against the unelected government sanctioned by the Obama administration in Kiev

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2 replies
VB John Roberson May 11 2014 at 9:59 PM

With all do respect, it seems that you are not fully aware of the situation in Ukraine.
After the former president Yanukovych ran away from the country after destroying the economy, the LEGALLY elected parliament had to take action and form a majority that could make progressive decisions in the country.
After the president escapes and leaves the country, the next person in charge is the head of the parliament, which in Ukrainian case was elected by the LEGALLY elected parliament. In addition, the prime minister is elected by the parliament as well.
Just to reiterate, it is impossible to call Ukrainian situation an armed coup for one simple reason, individuals that are temporarily in power today and represent the majority in the parliament were all ELECTED by the people to serve as elected officials. These elected officials created a coalition, which has all legal grounds to elect a prime minister as well as the speaker of the parliament.
I hope my short clarifications are helpful.

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sttlkng1 John Roberson May 11 2014 at 10:03 PM

Well said. Thanks.

I have a problem with Kiev, and the west calling the election, illegal. How is that possible? All elections are legal. Enforcing results might be illegimate if the election wasn't fair and open to all eligible. But it isn't illegal to call for an election and hold it. .

I also have a problem with the west, and the U. S. declaring results invalid and unenforcable like when the Palestinians in Gaza voted for Hamas. obama and previous administrations have shown the BS in their arguments again and again. The only democracy and elections they think are valid are those were they like the results.

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gogh007 May 11 2014 at 9:25 PM

Yes, in America the president can be elected by only a 54% yes vote. That is crazy too.

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Dracaveli May 11 2014 at 9:46 PM

The west supported insurgents in Libya to remove the government in that country and hold elections which they deemed "legal", the same is being done in Syria where breakaway regions and seperatist are being armed and trained by western nations. In the Ukraine however many ppl refuse to support the western back coup in Kiev, so the west is blaming Moscow for the coup having no popular support in the east of the nation

We are living in a age where invasions, regime change and coups against democratic elected governments is supported by America and on the other hand democracy/voting is condemn as illegal.

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