Pro-Russian separatists have won a majority in rebel-backed elections in eastern Ukraine.
Voters in the self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk returned a victory for Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnisky.
Kyiv described the polls, held one week after official votes, as a “farce” while Moscow says it “respects the will of the people”. Brussels condemned what is saw as illegal elections saying it places “a new obstacle on the path towards peace”.
On the streets of Donetsk, the results make for an uncertain future.
“Of course both sides should hold talks,” explains one Donetsk resident. “So that it is more or less peaceful and calm. Because there is no alternative. Nothing can be achieved through war.”
“Do you know what it is like in Transdnistria?” Asks another Donetsk resident. “We won’t be recognised by anyone. And what next? There will be no access to anything. And I am afraid that is what will happen to us. And that is the scariest thing.”
The vote complicates the geopolitical crisis centered around eastern Ukraine. The conflict between government forces and pro-Russian rebels has cost more than 4,000 lives.
A delicate ceasefire hangs in the balance. Artillery fire could be heard around Donetsk airport hours after the polling stations closed.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasi said the newly elected leaders in the separatist regions had a “mandate” to negotiate with Kyiv.