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Eastern Ukrainian regions vote for self-rule

The eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk declared self-rule after a referendum vote Sunday that was considered by many to be illegal.

By Aileen Graef

DONETSK, Ukraine, May 12 (UPI) -- The results of the referendums in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk have been announced to show an overwhelming majority favoring political independence from Ukraine.

The head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic election commission, Roman Lyagin, told reporters that 89 percent voted in favor of self-rule and 10 percent opposed, with 75 percent voter turnout. The Luhansk election commission said 96.2 percent favor self-rule.

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The BBC reported chaos at the polling stations with no voting booths and no electoral register. Voting also happened at the same time a shooting incident was reported at a polling station in the Donetsk region. A supporter of the Ukrainian government reportedly shot and killed a pro-Russian separatist.

Donetsk separatist leader Denis Pushilin told a Russian news agency that any Ukrainian troops remaining in Donetsk and Luhansk after the final tally was confirmed would be considered "occupying forces."

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The two regions plan to hold a second vote in one week's time on whether or not to join Russia, as Crimea did.

Both the United States and the European Union have condemned the Ukrainian referendum, and have warned Russian President Vladimir Putin not to annex the region. Putin did ask the regions not to hold their referendum vote Sunday, but they decided to push forward with the original plans.

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This referendum and the ensuing violence has only escalated fears that Ukraine is headed toward civil war. It has also made surrounding former Soviet countries nervous that Russia will attempt to stir unrest in their nations as well.

RELATED Ukrainian intel agency claims Russia meddling in southeastern Ukraine referendum

Interim Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov warned the referendums were "a step towards the abyss."

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