Referendum results in Donetsk region show landslide support for self-rule
|EDITOR'S CHOICE | 12.05.2014 | 11:14|
Results of referendum have been announced in Donetsk and they show the majority of voters supported self-rule, despite intensified military operation by Kiev which resulted in several deaths. In Lugansk region ballots are still being counted.
Almost 90 percent of voters in Donetsk Region have endorsed political independence from Kiev, the head of the Central Election Commission of the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’, Roman Lyagin, announced.
“Counting the ballots proved to be surprisingly easy – the number of people who said ‘no’ was relatively small and there appeared to be only a tiny proportion of spoiled ballots, so we managed to carry out counting quite fast. The figures are as follows: 89.07 percent voted ‘for’, 10.19 percent voted ‘against’ and 0.74 percent of ballots were rendered ineligible,” Lyagin told journalists.
In Lugansk region preliminary results have not yet been announced, but the leader of the local “people’s front” said only around 5% voted against the “Act of state self-rule of the Lugansk People's Republic.”
Despite fears that amid Kiev’s intensified military crackdown – which killed at least two civilians on referendum day – the turnout will be low, in both of the region it was unexpectedly high. In Donetsk it reached 74.87%, while in Lugansk the central election commission says 81% of eligible voters came to the polling stations.
With such a huge turnout, the referendums have been recognized as valid by both election commissions.
Kiev however, calling the regional voting on self-determination illegal, sent its recently formed paramilitary forces in an apparent move to disrupt referendums.
As armored military vehicles blocked passage to polling stations, voting in four towns across Lugansk region was disrupted. In the Donetsk town of Krasnoarmeysk, the National Guard shot at a crowd and killed two civilians who were protesting their attempt to seize a polling station.
The people’s governor of the Donetsk Region, Pavel Gubarev, told journalists on Sunday that Donetsk and Lugansk will emerge as new legal entities as a result of the referendum.
“The referendum for us is about creating a new state paradigm,” he said.
Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the people’s mayor of Slavyansk, Donetsk Region, where some of the heaviest fighting between Ukrainian troops and self-defense activists took place, said the next step following the referendum would be developing closer ties with Russia.
"Russia is our brotherly nation, [we hope for] full interaction with Russia, including entering the Customs Union,” Ponomaryov said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, is yet to formulate his opinion on the referendums on the status of the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions based on their final results, spokesman for the president, Dmitry Peskov told Kommersant newspaper.
Peskov also clarified that Putin “did not urge, but recommended” that the votes be postponed. However, the spokesman says that “even considering the authority of the Russian president,” it was difficult for Donetsk and Lugansk authorities to follow his recommendation amid Kiev's ongoing military crackdown.
Both the EU and US have dismissed the ballots in eastern Ukraine as illegal.
People stand in a line to receive ballots from members (front) of a local election commission during the referendum on the status of Donetsk region in the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol May 11, 2014. (Reuters/Marko Djurica)
“If these referenda go forward, they will violate international law and the territorial integrity of Ukraine. The United States will not recognize the results of these illegal referenda,” US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement late on Saturday.
The European Union came up with a similar comment, adding that the referendums ran counter to the Geneva agreement on de-escalation reached by Ukraine, Russia, the EU and the United States last month.
"The so-called referenda in ... parts of Lugansk and Donetsk Regions were illegal and we do not recognize the outcome. Those who organized the referenda have no democratic legitimacy," Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said in emailed comments to Reuters.
Despite the rejection of the referendums by Kiev and most Western countries, it won’t be so easy to ignore the results, international affairs expert Serdja Trifkovich believes.
“After the referendum it will no longer be possible for the regime in Kiev to say that they do not want to negotiate with the so-called terrorists,” Trifkovich told RT. “They will be forced to acknowledge internally that they are facing the level of agreement among the people in the eastern regions that will prove it rather difficult to deal with by force.”