Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Insurgents say vote favours sovereignty

Two referendums held in eastern Ukraine

  • Print

DONETSK, Ukraine -- Ninety per cent of voters in a key industrial region in eastern Ukraine came out in favour of sovereignty Sunday, pro-Russian insurgents said in announcing preliminary results of twin referendums 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 per cent of the Donetsk region's three 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.

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, which have 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 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 in 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 Lyagin said.

The violence in Krasnoarmeisk, about 30 kilometres 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 the 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 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.

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 fashioned from cardboard boxes and sealed with tape.

Most present said they were voting in favour 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.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 12, 2014 A12

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Your top TV picks for this week - December 8-12

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A Canada goose flies towards the sun near the Perimeter Highway North and Main St Monday afternoon – See Day 10 for Bryksa’s 30 goose project - May 11, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Two baby tigers were unveiled at the Assiniboine Park Zoo this morning, October 3rd, 2011. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What's your take on the Jets so far this season?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google