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Voting in disputed elections underway for new local leaders in Donetsk and Luhansk

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By Philip Pangalos
Voting in disputed elections underway for new local leaders in Donetsk and Luhansk

Voting is underway in elections for new local leaders in Donetsk and Luhansk, the two self-proclaimed peoples' republics in Eastern Ukraine that are not recognised by Kyiv, the United States or the European Union.

Both the Donetsk and Luhansk administrations are currently led by acting heads, following the murder and firing of their predecessors.

Head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic Denis Pushilin is expected to be confirmed in the job. Everyone voting gets a free lottery ticket with prizes to encourage voter turnout.

Citizens went to the polls under draconian security measures, with armed police guarding polling stations.

Russia is virtually alone in recognising the two entities, which split from Kyiv in 2014 and have been fighting Ukraine ever since, with Russia's help.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry issued a statement condemning the vote, which went ahead despite warnings from the US and EU that it was illegal.

Kyiv is calling on The West to impose new sanctions on Russia. Washington and Brussels have asked Russia not to support the election process, which they have characterised as illegal. The US referred to false elections, which do not benefit the Ukrainian people, while President Petro Poroshenko called on citizens not to vote.

Ukraine's president was brief and to the point:

"These elections will not be recognized by anyone. They do not meet the standards of Ukrainian legislation. They are carried out at the gunpoint of Russian machine guns in the occupied territory. They are categorically inappropriate. Security conditions were not created," fumed Petro Poroshenko.

There has been no timetable issued for the declaration of results, but it is highly likely the only candidates elected will be those favouring a pro-Moscow line.