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Lugansk Republic head says provocations possible during Ukrainian presidential elections

LUGANSK, May 24 /ITAR-TASS/. The Kiev authorities may stage provocations during early presidential elections in Ukraine on May 25 in order to accuse the Southeast Army, a paramilitary formation that appeared during ongoing protests in Ukraine’s southeast, of disrupting the vote, the people’s governor of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), Valery Bolotov, said Saturday.

“I recommend LPR nationals not to go to the polling stations as we have information about provocations being prepared by the Ukrainian government and National Guard. They will be conducted to later accuse the Army of the Southeast of disrupting the elections,” Bolotov told journalists.

The people’s governor also said mobilization of the population is taking place on a voluntary basis.

“Local residents go to military registration and enlistment offices voluntarily, enlisting in the militia. In this way it is radically different from mobilization events in Ukraine, where people are forced to go to be killed under the threat of criminal responsibility,” he said.

The LPR government, Bolotov said, has nearly been formed in full. Work is currently underway to draft the republic’s constitution.

The eastern Ukrainian Donetsk and Lugansk regions held referendums on May 11, in which most voters supported independence from Ukraine. This happened due to an unstable political situation in Ukraine after a coup in the country three months ago.

Ukraine has been in turmoil after the coup, which occurred in February. New people were brought to power amid riots as President Viktor Yanukovich had to leave the country the same month citing security concerns. The new Ukrainian leaders in Kiev set early presidential elections for May 25.

The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of the coup-imposed Ukrainian authorities.

Crimea and Sevastopol adopted declarations of independence on March 11. They held a referendum on March 16, in which 96.77% of Crimean and 95.6% of Sevastopol voters chose to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the reunification deals March 18.

After Crimea’s reunification with Russia, massive protests against the coup-imposed Kiev leaders erupted in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeastern territories.

Demonstrators in southeastern regions, who have been demanding the country’s federalization and the status of a state language for Russian, seized some government buildings.

Kiev has been conducting what it has dubbed “an antiterrorism operation” against pro-federalization activists. Russia, which does not recognize the new Kiev authorities, has said the operation is punitive.

The current chaos in Ukraine has already claimed dozens of lives since early May.