Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine voted Sunday in elections condemned by the international community as illegal and a violation of a cease-fire already on the verge of collapse.
Results of the elections in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which have been under the armed insurgents’ control since April, were foregone conclusions as fighters who seized power months ago were the only names on the ballots recognizable to most voters.
Alexander Zakharchenko, a 38-year-old militia leader who took over the proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in July after a Kremlin-installed fighter returned to Moscow, won more than 80 percent of the vote for prime minister against two relative unknowns, based on an exit poll reported by Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency. Igor Plotnitsky, a 50-year-old Soviet army veteran, was the only candidate with a public presence running for government leader of the neighboring Luhansk People’s Republic and was expected to be declared the winner.
The two regions’ leaders have issued conflicting forecasts of what will become of their territories once the battles against Ukrainian government forces are over, with some claiming they plan to unify with other regions of southeastern Ukraine in a new state to be called Novorossiya – the pre-revolutionary name for the area when it was conquered by czarist Russia in the 18th century.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin warned in an interview with Russia’s RBK television that the separatists were creating irresolvable problems for their communities with the efforts to sever them from the rest of Ukraine.
“The situation will deteriorate no matter what anyone says,” Klimkin said, alluding to the hardships already suffered by residents of the occupied areas who can no longer collect state pensions and benefits from Kiev, a capital their leaders say is now in a foreign country.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon deplored the renegade vote as “a breach of the constitution and national law” of Ukraine and said it was likely to seriously undermine the Sept. 5 cease-fire signed by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine and the separatists.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.