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Rebels claim mass turnout in east Ukraine vote for self-rule

Published on May 11, 2014 11:42 PM

DONETSK, Ukraine (AFP) - Pro-Russian rebels claimed a massive turnout in a vote they held on Sunday to split east Ukraine into two independent republics, though Kiev slammed it as a "farce" amid Western fears it could lead to civil war.

Thousands of people queued in front of a limited number of polling stations in the restive provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk to cast their ballots, AFP journalists in several towns reported.

"I want to be independent from everyone," said ex-factory worker Nikolai Cherepin as he voted yes in the town of Mariupol, in Donetsk province. "Yugoslavia broke up and they live well now".

Insurgent leaders asserted that more than 70 per cent of the electorate in the two regions - home to seven million of Ukraine's total population of 46 million - had slid voting slips into transparent ballot boxes.

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