Separatist movements in Donetsk and Luhansk claimed victory in elections to determine whether the two regions would self-rule, with 90 and 96 per cent of people respectively voting in favour, although the outcome is widely disputed.
The news comes as Denis Pushilin, the self-declared leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, called on President Putin to absorb the region into Russia. Pushilin also warned that national presidential elections, planned for 25 May, would not go ahead in the Donetsk region, as it is now independent.
Ukraine, Europe and the US have all condemned the vote, believing it to be illegal. Russia called for it to be delayed but said yesterday that the result would be considered legitimate.
Ukraine's acting President Olexander Turchynov urged caution over the high turnout claims, saying: “According to the Interior Ministry... about 24 per cent of people eligible to vote took part in the so-called referendum the Luhansk region and slightly over 32 per cent in the Donetsk region.”
The EU is set to publish more names of people sanctioned over the political turmoil between Russia and Ukraine today, including two Crimean companies.