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Ukraine: referendum on 'self-rule' in eastern regions begins
Sunday, 11 May 2014 18:01
  • Referendum for 'people's republics' in Donetsk and Luhansk
  • Long queues form outside polling stations in Mariupol
  • Clashes overnight on the outskirts of Slavyansk
  • Read a summary of key events

5.01pm BST

Pro-Russian rebels claimed a big turnout in a vote to split eastern Ukraine into two independent republics. Thousands of people queued in front of a few polling stations in Donetsk and Luhansk to cast their ballots. No violent incidents were reported during polling, but tensions remained high amid a military campaign against the separatists.

A separatist leader said Donetsk would form its own state bodies and consider government soldiers as "occupiers" once results were in, Interfax news agency said. "All military troops on our territory after the official announcement of referendum results will be considered illegal and declared occupiers," Denis Pushilin, a leader of the self-styled Donetsk republic, declared.

4.34pm BST

David Stern has written an interesting piece in National Geographic about the role of social media in the Ukraine crisis, focusing on the deaths in Odessa, and how how each side twisted the facts to suit its own perspective.

There have been some objective attempts to chronicle the Odessa events, notably by Roland Oliphant for theTelegraph and Howard Amos for theGuardian. But among the few honest efforts to bring order to what amounted to utter mayhem, there have been many more incomplete or one-sided versions, distortions, and sometimes outright falsehoods. As Ukraine teeters on the edge of civil war, much of the rage and division in the country, it seems, is fueled directly by social networks.

3.38pm BST

The US makes clear its position on today's referendum.

#Ukraine: 'The United States will not recognize the results of these illegal referenda': http://t.co/as0dECx1Igpic.twitter.com/eAdIRbuSr1

3.20pm BST

This tweet from the US mission to Nato is unlikely to make Vladimir Putin quake in his boots, but it might irritate him.

Solidarity with Allies, strength in unity: US, British and Latvian troops train together at Camp dai in Latvia pic.twitter.com/iuyHgyYOAp

3.06pm BST

Simon Kruse, a Danish journalist, has been following the standoff between pro- and anti-Kiev supporters in Krasnoarmeysk.

Crowd now turning to admin building controlled by pro-ukr fighters. Forming corridor, wants to force them out. pic.twitter.com/mvGcAO7KW5

Cars w pro-ukr militia surrounded by crowd and forced to leave. Pro-ukr still control admin bldg of krasnoarmeysk. pic.twitter.com/yG7HxMAPcl

3.01pm BST

Quite a few reporters are sceptical about claims over the high turnout in today's referendum.

By my amateur count the referendum turnout in Donetsk oblast today will reach well over 1 billion

Each Mariupol polling station would need to process close to 100,000voters for 100% turnout. #Ukraine

2.56pm BST

Shaun Walker on Pushilin's declaration.

Pushilin says after tonight all Ukrainian troops in the region are "illegal occupiers" says Interfax. If not simply rhetoric, big escalation

2.49pm BST

A separatist leader from Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region said it would form its own state bodies and consider government soldiers there as "occupiers" once results were announced from today's referendum on self-rule, Interfax news agency said.

"All military troops on our territory after the official announcement of referendum results will be considered illegal and declared occupiers," Denis Pushilin, a leader of the self-styled Donetsk republic said, according to the agency. "It is necessary to form state bodies and military authorities as soon as possible."

2.43pm BST

The Moldovan authorities say they stopped Russia's deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, from leaving the country with a petition calling on Moscow to recognise a separatist region in his possession.

But Rogozin, who had just visited the separatist province of Trans-Dniester, claimed he had delivered most of the signatures supporting it. AP reports:

Moldova's foreign ministry said late Saturday that authorities confiscated boxes of signatures from Rogozin at Chisinau airport and would analsze the material.

Rogozin, however, said on his Facebook page that Moldovan officials "only got a small part" of the signatures.

2.26pm BST

It's worth keeping in mind a few numbers to give today's "referendum" in eastern Ukraine some context, says Luke Harding. According to Serhiy Taruta, Donetsk's provincial governor, there are 2.7 million people eligible to vote across the Donetsk region, in 5,000 different polling districts. The population is 4.3 million.

In an interview with the Guardian last month, Taruta dismissed the "referendum" by the self-appointed "Donetsk People's Republic" as an absurd exercise. "For it to be done credibly any election has to be organised according to law. There need to be proper measures. There needs to be an election commission and voting lists. You have to have transparency. You can't just set up you own alternative. It's a nonsense."

1.42pm BST

A voter makes a point to Ben Plesser, a producer with NBC News.

"The US has double standards. They called the demonstrators in #Kiev heroes but the call us terrorists" says Irina pic.twitter.com/NzeTHvNMGG

1.11pm BST

A tweet from ABC News' Alexander Marquardt, which underlines the "farcical" side of today's vote.

A woman at a Donetsk polling station drops two ballots into box, shot by @mattmcgarrypic.twitter.com/8U7zlDitaR#Ukraine

12.30pm BST

Shaun Walker has just sent this update on a vote that is leaning heavily to a 'yes' vote for self-rule.

Its a warm sunny day in Donetsk, and Ive visited a few polling stations. Most have queues. Partly that is because not many polling stations are working, but partly it is because there is genuinely a lot of people wanting to vote. Almost everyone I have met is voting yes, those who dont agree with the vote are mainly staying at home.

Ludmila Babushkina, 78, said she had cast her vote to protect the region from fascists in Kiev. She said that previously there had been a chance to make some kind of compromise with Kiev, but that none of the leading candidates in the election represented the Russian-speaking east of the country.

12.26pm BST

12.11pm BST

Russia's TV channels have omitted any mention of loud booing of Russia last night during the Eurovision song contest. The booing during voting whenever Russia won points, and especially when the Russian host announced Moscow's point awards, was ignored by state media, notes the Guardian's Luke Harding.

Russia's main first channel, and Vesti TV played it straight. They merely reported that the Tolmachevy sisters - who sang Russia's entry, Shine - came seventh in the contest. The NTV channel did quote the sisters as saying that they "found themselves in a decidedly tricky situation" during last night's Eurovision final in Copenhagen. But there was no explanation as to what this "tricky situation" was. Nothing unusual about censorship in Russia, where TV is closely controlled, but it's interesting the Kremlin decided to play down this snub.

12.00pm BST

Shaun Walker has this piece of trivia about the founder of Donetsk. The BBC ran a story in March about a joke campaign for Donetsk to join the UK because of its Welsh founder.

Donetsk is an English city! (the founder was Welsh actually, but why split hairs) pic.twitter.com/8Snt8RMVGm

11.58am BST

The BBC has a useful q&a on the today's referendum. Its key point:

Most experts agree the Donetsk referendum will not have much significance for the region. While the demand for the region's self-determination is high, the vote's dubious nature and logistical difficulties mean it is unlikely to get wide support from the local population or be recognised as genuine. Without direct help from Moscow, as was the case in Crimea, its results appear impossible to implement.

11.56am BST

The Associated Press has a roundup of the vote so far. The results seems a foregone conclusion.

At one polling station in a school in Donetsk, turnout was brisk in the first hour of voting. All voting slips that could be seen in the clear ballot boxes showed that the option for autonomy had been selected.

Although election officials in Donetsk have said they are certain that turnout will be high, it seems likely that most of those opposed to autonomy will decline to participate. Many of those who did vote said they hoped the vote would help stabilise the situation.

11.28am BST

Shaun Walker's assessment of the vote so far.

Both these true: 1. Referendum is farcical by any normal standard; 2. There is huge anti-Kiev and smaller but growing separatist sentiment.

11.27am BST

Mike Giglio of BuzzFeed says Donetsk might run out of ballots.

Very crowded Donetsk polling station says it has gone through half of its 5k ballots, might run out.

10.54am BST

A footnote to the Eurovision song contest from the BBC's Steve Rosenberg.

Eurovision reflects a changing Russia. 2003: Moscow enters pseudo-lesbian pop duo Tatu. 2010: Anti-gay comments in Russia about Conchita

10.51am BST

Tim Judah, Balkans correspondent for the Economist, says there is some confusion on the vote.

#Sloviansk voting but confusion about what 4. Some say 4 federalisation some 4 independence. Offical says word on ballot is "slippery".

10.49am BST

This is what Euromaidan, the pro-Kiev group, thinks of the Donetsk people's republic.

The Donetsk Banana Republic RT @euromaidan: pic.twitter.com/Yc0p2TlE0g

10.44am BST

Gulliver Cragg from France 24 on some voting shenanigans.

A friend in #donetsk tells me he has already voted ("no") three times in #referendum and "I'm not stopping!" #ukraine

10.41am BST

Shaun Walker says the "no" voters are staying home.

One woman says "Donetsk People's Republic? More like Donetsk Banana Republic!" Otherwise all Yes voters; the "No" camp simply staying home

10.33am BST

How has Crimea fared since its annexation by Russia? The Guardian's Alec Luhn sent this piece from Simferopol, Crimea's administrative centre, describing the region's adjustment problems.

Russia's annexation of Crimea has resulted in startling disruption to everyday life, with banks running out of money, prices soaring, and even problems with water supplies.

As the president, Vladimir Putin, flew into the peninsula for the first time since Russia wrested control of Crimea in March for a Victory Day appearance, the huge task of assimilating a region almost the size of Belgium with 2 million people was becoming more and more apparent.

10.25am BST

Politics intruded last night's Eurovision song contest, which was won by Austria's drag artist Conchita Wurst. Russia's entry - The Tolmachevy Sisters - received boos from the audience during the results when countries including Azerbaijan awarded them the highest number of points. When Russia's delegate appeared on screen to announce its votes - seven points of which were for Ukraine - there was more booing. Ukraine gave four points to Russia in return.

10.15am BST

10.10am BST

In his piece for today's Observer, the Guardian's sister paper, Shaun Walker makes this observation.

There are many in Mariupol and across eastern Ukraine who are horrified by the armed uprising; some of them are ethnic Ukrainians, others are simply middle-class professionals or intellectuals and fear that events here could slip into anarchic violence. Although they try to keep quiet in the current atmosphere, supporters of Ukrainian unity are numerous.

Nevertheless, Kiev's labelling of those seizing buildings here as "terrorists" has not helped to calm tensions, and the Ukrainian government appears to be in denial that increasingly large swaths of the population are backing the resistance movement, spurred on by the Russian media and the rumour mill, and increasingly by the bloody death toll from Kiev's "anti-terror" manoeuvres.

10.05am BST

Voting is also taking place in the former Soviet republic of Lithuania where incumbent Dalia Grybauskaite is widely expected to be re-elected as president. Recent opinion polls showed Grybauskaite, who was previously EU budget commissioner and Lithuania's finance minister, winning about 47% of the vote. Although the polls put her far head of rivals, she is below the simple majority needed to avoid a runoff, to be held along with European parliament elections on May 25. Grybauskaite's approval ratings have risen after she condemned Moscow's annexation of Crimea and her strong support for boosting Nato forces in Lithuania.

9.55am BST

Christopher Miller of Kyiv Post, Ukraine's English language paper, also touches on the air of improvisation in today's referendum.

Two men not bothering with voting booths, just borrowed my pen to cast their "Yes" votes at School No. 1 in #Donetsk.

9.51am BST

The Daily Telegraph's David Blair on the makeshift nature of the hasty vote.

No voters' roll at this polling station. Anyone with ID can vote. What about multiple voting? 'People are too decent for that' says official

9.47am BST

The Guardian's Shaun Walker has been gauging sentiment in Donetsk.

Been to two schools on outskirts of Donetsk with @obk - lots of voters, big queues, all so far voting for the creation of Donetsk Republic

9.45am BST

9.40am BST

Polling stations have opened in a hastily organised referendum in eastern Ukraine, which will ask voters whether they want to create a quasi-independent statelet from the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine, as violence and chaos have plunged the east of the country into what increasingly resembles the beginning of a civil war. Early in the morning, huge queues were visible in the few polling stations open in the southern port city of Mariupol, scene of the most recent violence.

For a vote on which so much hangs, the referendum in Luhansk and Donetsk, which has declared itself a "people's republic", has an ad hoc feel. Ballot papers have been printed without security provision, polling stations were limited in some areas and there was confusion on quite what people were asked to endorse. The vote is going ahead despite a call by Russian president Vladimir Putin for a postponement.

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source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/11/ukraine-referendum-for-self-rule-in-eastern-regions-begins-live-updates