After voting for self-rule, pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk ask to join Russia

BY Ellen Rolfes  May 12, 2014 at 12:17 PM EDT

Roman Lyagin (R), chairman of the Central Election Commission of the so-called People's Republic of Donetsk displays protocols with the results of the referendums on the indepence held in two regions of the eastern Ukraine the day before during a press-conference in Donetsk on May 12, 2014. Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images

Roman Lyagin, right, chairman of the Central Election Commission of the so-called People’s Republic of Donetsk displays protocols with the results of the referendums on the independence held in two regions of the eastern Ukraine the day before. Photo by Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images


Weeks before the May 25 elections in Ukraine, residents of Donetsk and Luhansk regions voted for self-rule, independent of the Ukrainian government.

Pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk reported Monday that 90 percent of voters in Sunday’s referendum voted in favor of sovereignty. Ninety-six percent of voters in Luhansk supported self-rule.

Fewer than two hours after the referendum results were announced, self-proclaimed governor of People’s Republic of Donetsk Denis Pushilin told reporters that he would ask Russia to consider annexation.

Russia, in response, did not state whether the regions will be absorbed in a similar fashion to Crimea. In a statement released Monday, the Kremlin said, “In Moscow, we respect the will of the people of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and are counting on practical implementation of the outcome of the referendum in a civilised manner, without any repeat of violence and through dialogue.”

Video by Associated Press

The Krelim, instead, supported a dialogue between the government in Kiev and the south-east regions of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s acting President Oleksandr Turchynov dismissed the referendums on Monday, calling them illegal and “a propaganda farce.”

“Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine are about to declare de facto independence not for one, but for two provinces bordering Russia here. And they need this vote to give their efforts a veneer of legitimacy,” Philip Shishkin told PBS NewsHour Weekend anchor Hari Sreenivasan on Sunday.

CNN reported voting irregularities at the polls in Donetsk, such as people blatantly voting twice or casting multiple ballots at one time. CNN also reported that voter lists were not used to account for those who had or had not voted. Donetsk election officials, however, denied reports of double voting and voter fraud.

On Monday, the European Union has banned visas and frozen assets for 13 more people and two firms in Russia-annexed Crimea. The EU ministers agreed Monday to expand their list of targets, who are undermining Ukraine’s stability or obstructing international organizations’ work in the country.

Despite the harsher measures, Russia has yet to alter its aggressive stance. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that Russia has yet to fulfill its promise to withdraw troops from the Ukrainian border.

They are not leaving as far as we can tell. You would have to ask President Putin as to why he says they are leaving, when in fact they are not,” Hagel said.