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Donetsk, Lugansk regions to hold referendums on self-determination

The vote will take place in conditions of a continuing special operation by the Kiev authorities in Ukraine’s east

KIEV, May 11 /ITAR-TASS/. Federalization supporters in the eastern Ukrainian Donetsk and Lugansk regions will hold referendums on self-determination on Sunday after the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Lugansk People’s Republic were proclaimed in April.

The vote will take place in conditions of a continuing special operation by the Kiev authorities in Ukraine’s east.

In the Donetsk Region, the question put to the referendum is the following: “Do you support the Act of Independence of the Donetsk People’s Republic?” The question has been printed in the Ukrainian and Russian languages, and the options are “yes” and “no”.

The DPR’s Central Election Commission earlier said over 3 million ballot papers have been printed for the plebiscite. All of them are in buildings of territorial election commissions.

DPR representative Boris Litvinov, in charge of the referendum issues, told Itar-Tass that polling stations will be opened at 08:00 a.m. local time (05:00 GMT).

“We expect the vote to be held at 1,540 polling stations, but the exact figure will only be named in the afternoon, as exact information will be received then,” he said. “About 18,000 people are taking part in preparation and holding of the referendum. If electioneerers are taken into account too, there are more than 25,000.”

According to Litvinov, territorial election commissions have been instructed to “determine the time when stations will close on their own, with account for the security situation”.

“In line with the rules of referendum holding, polling stations should work until 22:00. But in some towns and villages they will be open until 20:00, and there’s curfew in, say, Slavyansk, from 20:00,” he said.

Preliminary results of the referendum “will be made public as information is being received”, Litvinov said. Earlier DPR government co-chairman Denis Pushilin said the plebiscite results will be made public within three days.

Residents of the Lugansk Region will have to answer the question: “Do you support the act on state independence of the Lugansk People’s Republic?” Spokesman Vasily Nikitin told an Itar-Tass correspondent that “preparation for the referendum did not stop for any minute”.

“The vote will take place at 90% of the overall number of polling stations usually being established in the region for elections,” Nikitin said without specifying the number. “The stations will be open today until 22:00.”

Ballot papers for the will expression have already been delivered to the stations, he added, saying that voter turnout was expected to stand at 80-90% “The first results of the vote will be made public on Monday, May 12,” Nikitin said.

The presidium of the Lugansk Region council spoke for the referendum prior to the vote. “We support the initiative of Lugansk Region residents on the holding of a referendum on the status of the Lugansk Region in line with requirements adopted at meetings of territorial associations of our region,” the statement emphasized.

“We state with huge anguish: a civil war is underway in Ukraine, provoked by the current Kiev authorities and their patrons. On their conscience is the death of tens of people, mourning in hundreds of families and hatred born in the hearts of millions,” it said.

“They have labeled half a country as criminals and terrorists only because the people see the future of their native country differently than politicians who have come to power do,” the statement said. "Instead of dialogue with them, clarification of positions and search for compromises, Kiev unfolded against millions of residents not an anti- but terrorist operation."

“This is the [authorities’] first army operation in Europe's contemporary history against their own fellow citizens with the use of both regular troops and paramilitary formations - an open terror against the people,” it said.

Massive protests against the new Ukrainian authorities, who were propelled to power in Kiev amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February, erupted in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeastern territories after the secession of the Crimean Peninsula, which declared independence and joined Russia on March 18 following a referendum.

Southeastern Ukrainian protesters demand broader powers for their regions. Some demonstrators have seized government buildings.

The Kiev authorities have been conducting what they call an antiterrorism operation in eastern Ukraine. Russia, which does not recognize the de facto Ukrainian leaders, has condemned the operation, apparently aimed to crack down on Ukrainian federalization supporters.

At least 46 people died on May 2 in clashes and a fire in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa after radicals set ablaze the Trade Unions House, where pro-federalization activists hid, and a tent camp where activists were collecting signatures for a referendum on federalization and for the status of a state language for Russian.

In the Donetsk Region city of Mariupol, Ukrainian law enforcers opened fire from armored vehicles on participants of a rally held in honor of Victory Day on May 9 who gathered near the building of the local Interior Ministry department and tried to prevent its storm.

According to representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, at least 10 people died during the fire. Television channels showed footage of law enforcers using armored vehicles against unarmed people, when people were hit by armored personnel carriers. The city council declared May 10 a day of mourning in Mariupol.

On Victory Day, May 9, Russia and other former Soviet republics marked the 69th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.