Most in eastern Ukraine region against joining Russia: Poll

Masked pro-Russian protesters stand guard outside a regional government building in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on April 19, 2014. A majority of inhabitants in Ukraine's pro-Russian protest hub Donetsk do not want to join Russia but consider the govern
Masked pro-Russian protesters stand guard outside a regional government building in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on April 19, 2014. A majority of inhabitants in Ukraine's pro-Russian protest hub Donetsk do not want to join Russia but consider the government in Kiev to be illegitimate, according to a poll published on Saturday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

KIEV (AFP) - A majority of inhabitants in Ukraine's pro-Russian protest hub Donetsk do not want to join Russia but consider the government in Kiev to be illegitimate, according to a poll published on Saturday.

52.2 per cent of people questioned in the region, the focal point of separatist unrest that has seen pro-Moscow militants seize a string of towns, said they were against joining Russia while 27.5 per cent favoured rule from Ukraine's former Soviet master Moscow.

Among the 3,200 respondents across Ukraine's entire Russian-speaking south-east, the number of those opposed to Moscow taking control rose to 69.7 per cent, according to the poll from Kiev's Institute for International Sociology published in the Russian-language Weekly Mirror newspaper.

In the Donetsk region, where separatists have declared an independent republic and demanded a referendum on autonomy, 38.4 per cent said they backed Kremlin demands to federalise Ukraine and 41 per cent said they wanted a decentralisation of power.

Inhabitants in the east remain highly suspicious of Kiev's interim authorities, who took over from pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych after his ouster in February following months of bloody protests.

Some 74 per cent of respondents said they consider acting President Oleksandr Turchynov to be illegitimate, the poll said.

Russia, which Nato says has some 40,000 troops on the border, has said it has the right to intervene militarily in Ukraine to protect Russian speakers and has denied Western allegations that it is behind the separatist unrest.

But 57.2 per cent of those polled in Donetsk said they felt their rights have not been violated and 66.3 per cent said they were against a Russian military intervention.