Friday 19 January 2018

'People's Republics' declared in rebel regions of Ukraine

A man holds a cross and a telephone as he stands near a barricade erected by pro-Russian activists during a rally to mark and celebrate the announcement of the results of the referendum on the status of Donetsk region in Donetsk
A man holds a cross and a telephone as he stands near a barricade erected by pro-Russian activists during a rally to mark and celebrate the announcement of the results of the referendum on the status of Donetsk region in Donetsk
Pro-Russian armed men stand at the city hall in the eastern Ukraine city of Luhansk. AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka
Mourners grieve at the coffin of Rodion Dobrodomov, a member of the Ukrainian National guard killed during a pitched battle in Mariupol
People carry a coffin containing the body of Rodion Dobrodomov, a member of the Ukrainian National guard killed during a pitched battle in Mariupol
An armed pro-Russian activist stands guard outside an administrative building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk
Head of a local election committee Alexander Malykhin announces the results of the referendum on the status of Luhansk region in Luhansk
Pro-Russian armed men stand at the city hall in the eastern Ukraine city of Luhansk
Insurgent leader Denis Pushilin, centre, walks with his bodyguards after his news conference in Donetsk, Ukraine
Co-chairman of the Presidium of the People's Republic of Donetsk Boris Litvinov, left, Insurgent leader head of the elections commission of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic Denis Pushilin, and vote-counter Roman Lyagin, right, show documents with the results of Sunday's referendum to journalists at a news conference in Donetsk, Ukraine
Pro-Russian armed men stand guard as people hold a rally to mark and celebrate the announcement of the results of the referendum on the status of Luhansk region in Luhansk
Self-styled governor of Luhansk region Valery Bolotov (C) delivers a speech during a rally to mark and celebrate the announcement of the results of the referendum on the status of Luhansk region in Luhansk
People hold a rally to mark and celebrate the announcement of the results of the referendum on the status of Luhansk region in Luhansk
People hold a rally to mark and celebrate the announcement of the results of the referendum on the status of Luhansk region in Luhansk May 12, 2014
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk (R) meets with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy at the Ukrainian cabinet of ministers building in Kiev
Oleg Tsarev, deputy of the Ukrainian parliament and former candidate in the 2014 Ukrainian presidential election, delivers a speech during a rally to mark and celebrate the announcement of the results of the referendum on the status of Luhansk region in Luhansk
A bodyguard hold his weapon during a rally to mark and celebrate the announcement of the results of the referendum on the status of Luhansk region in Luhansk
Ukraine's acting President Oleksander Turchinov (R) meets with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy (L, front) in Kiev
Ukraine's acting President Oleksander Turchinov (R) shakes hands with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy during a meeting in Kiev
An armoured fighting vehicle with pro-Russian rebels patrols in the streets of the eastern Ukrainian city of Slaviansk May 12, 2014 evening
Fireworks explode over people who hold a rally to mark and celebrate the announcement of the results of the referendum on the status of Donetsk region in Donetsk
People react during a rally to mark and celebrate announcement of results of the referendum on the status of Donetsk region in Donetsk

David Blair in Donetsk

Ukraine's most populous regions stood on the verge of joining Russia yesterday when the birth of new republics was simultaneously proclaimed in Donetsk and Luhansk following a disputed referendum on self-rule.

Denis Pushilin, the self-styled prime minister of the Donetsk region, stood outside the main government building, which his followers seized last month, and announced: "The People's Republic is now sovereign!"

A few hundred people had gathered for the occasion inside a barricade of old tyres, festooned with posters comparing America, Europe and Ukraine's new government to "fascists" and "Nazis". They clapped, whistled and cheered.

Earlier, Roman Lyagin, one of Mr Pushilin's colleagues, said the region – which has a population of 4.5 million people and is the industrial backbone of Ukraine's economy – was destined to join Russia.

"There are a lot of paths which we may follow, so the step to join the Russian Federation would probably be an appropriate step," he said.

Mr Lyagin had just announced the final result of Sunday's referendum on splitting from Ukraine.

He said that 89.7pc had voted "yes", 10.19pc "no" and 0.74pc of ballot papers had been spoiled. This produced a total of 100.63pc.

It later emerged that Mr Lyagin had misspoken and the "yes" vote had actually been 89.07pc. However, his figures also suggested that the number of ballot papers counted or discarded had exceeded the total produced by 2,534. This discrepancy was not explained.

In Luhanks, organisers said about 96pc of those who turned out voted for sovereignty.

William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, condemned a referendum with "zero credibility in the eyes of the world", adding: "It did not meet a single standard in terms of fairness, objectivity and transparency."

The US State Department said America would not recognise a referendum designed to "create further division and disorder in the country".

However, the pro-Russian leaders are trying to give their "People's Republic" the trappings of a state.

Mr Pushilin now has an entourage of aides and bodyguards clad in camouflage fatigues. Yesterday, he said that an army was "in the process of being formed", based on the "Donbass People's Militia", whose fighters already guard occupied buildings armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles.

Mr Pushilin said that everything else about the future of the territory, including whether it would join Russia or seek recognised independence, would be "decided later" with the help of "experts".

Differing from Mr Lyagin, he added: "We have received sovereignty, the right to self-rule. Now we have the right to join another country. Which country, we will decide later."

Ukraine's government has deployed the army to crush the separatist forces.

However, the offensive has made no progress and alienated many of Donetsk's people with a series of bungled or bloody operations.

Mr Pushilin accused the Kiev government of spurning negotiations and relying solely on "force". He added that the "People's Republic" might request Russian military help.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, noted a "high turnout in the referendum", adding: "We respect the will of the population of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and we believe that the practical implementation of the results of this vote will be carried out in a civilised manner."

Meanwhile, Gazprom, the Russian state energy giant, exerted more pressure on Ukraine's government, threatening to cut off gas supplies by June 3 unless Kiev settles its debts. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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