Pro-Russian rebels hold referendums to split from Ukraine
Published on May 11, 2014 2:32 PM
DONETSK, Ukraine (AFP) - Voting began on Sunday in referendums called by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine to split from the rest of the ex-Soviet republic, polls the US slammed as "illegal" as the West fears they could spark civil war.
The vote, carried out as two "referendums" in provinces where the insurgents hold more than a dozen towns, marks a serious deepening of the political crisis in Ukraine, which has pushed East-West relations to lows not seen since the end of the Cold War.
Although a "yes" vote would likely be recognised only by Russia, it would greatly undermine a presidential election Ukraine is to hold in two weeks, which the United States and the European Union see as crucial to restoring stability.
And they come as fighting continued in eastern Ukraine, with several explosions heard overnight in the flashpoint town of Slavyansk as the Kiev authorities try to flush the rebels from towns they control.
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