First results from the independence referendum in eastern Ukraine point to 90 percent having voted ‘yes’ in the Donetsk Region.
Counting got underway immediately after the polls closed on Sunday.
Pro-Moscow rebels said they had always been confident a majority would chose self-rule.
Roman Lyagin who is head of the separatist election commission justified the vote:
“We understand perfectly that no one in the world will recognise this. European organisations and countries in the whole world will not recognise it. But we would like to be listened to and that is why we held this people’s referendum organised by the people.”
Earlier on Sunday at least one man was shot dead and a second badly injured when Ukrainian soldiers tried to disperse a crowd in the town of Krasnoarmeisk.
Well before the polls closed, one separatist leader said the region would form its own state bodies and military after the referendum formalising the split from Kyiv.