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Asean & Global Updates
POSTED | 7:02 AM | 03-11-2014

Pro-Russia Ukraine rebels hold elections

Residents of rebel-held eastern Ukraine voted for leaders on Sunday (2 Nov 2014), taking another step toward establishing an independent enclave and exacerbating tensions between Russia and the West.

Thousands of residents across war-torn eastern Ukraine lined up on Sunday to give their backing to the current rebel leadership, which has been working to establish a new pro-Russian state in the southeast corner of the country, RIA Novosti reported.

The vote, which was embraced by Russia and condemned by Western and Ukrainian leaders, will change little in terms of leadership on the ground. But rebels said it would give them a measure of popular support in their negotiations with the central government in Kiev, and it underlined how fully Ukraine has lost control of the region.

Rebel leaders have declared that an often-violated two-month-old ceasefire is dead, and last week they said they plan to take over more territory that is vital for the establishment of their state.

A Ukrainian military spokesman said on Sunday that Russian military support had been flowing into eastern Ukraine in recent days, and witnesses on Sunday reported long columns of unmarked military trucks traveling into the rebel stronghold of Donetsk. Ahead of the vote, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia would recognize the results.

Alexander Zakharchenko, a rebel leader in eastern Ukraine, speaks to media during a news conference in Donetsk on Sunday. “I voted for peace and the future of our republic,” he said after voting, RIA Novosti reported. After the elections, he said, Kiev “will recognize us, give us our land back without a fight, and we will establish good diplomatic relations.”

Zakharchenko, a former electrician at an eastern Ukrainian mine, took over leadership of rebels in the Donetsk region from a Russian citizen in early August. He was running on Sunday against two little-known candidates. 

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