Pro-Russian separatists have held their own elections in eastern Ukraine one week after the rest of the country opted for a Western-leaning parliament.
In Donetsk, voters in the self-proclaimed People’s Republic backed a separatist leadership. According to exit polls former mining electrician, Alexander Zakharchenko won over 81 percent support.
“We have become the witnesses of how citizens of the Donetsk People’s Republic exercised their free choice for prosperity and independence,” said Zakharchenko.
Kyiv has already denounced the elections in Donetsk and Luhansk as farcical citing the Minsk agreements signed by rebel leaders that only allow for the election of local officials under Ukrainian law..
The United States has called the elections illegitimate and the European Union the polls ‘an obstacle to peace’, but Russia says it will recognise the results.
Russian lawmaker Leonid Slutskiy who was in Donetsk said the most important thing was the cease-fire, after that there can be discussion on if there should be a Ukrainian Federation or something else.
As night fell some voters turned out to celebrate the result in central Donetsk. Many accuse the Kyiv government of having turned its back on them.
One woman said :” They must establish an economic relationship, Kyiv must pay the pension arrears and payments for the children, they must stop following their political goals , we must feel we are free people.”
Rebels claim the elections legitimise the separatist leadership however, Kyiv maintains they change nothing.