LUHANSK, May 12 (RIA Novosti) – Between 94 and 98 percent of eligible voters in Ukraine’s easternmost region of Luhansk have voted for greater autonomy from the regime in Kiev, the head of the region’s Central Election Committee said Monday.
“Since this morning, 28 territorial committees have been counted, and we are waiting for statistics from territorial committees from difficult regions where the guys have fallen under the impact of [Ukraine’s] National Guard, but according to preliminary data, 94 to 98 percent have voted for independence of the Luhansk People’s Republic,” Alexander Malykhin said.
On Sunday, residents in Ukraine’s southeastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions went to the polls in a self-rule referendum, with ballots in Ukrainian and Russian asking whether they supported the acts of state self-determination of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.
In the Luhansk region, voter turnout was over 79 percent, with the turnout in the regional capital exceeding 76 percent. In neighboring Donetsk Region, more than 70 percent came to cast their ballots despite an intensified military operation by the Kiev government.
Central Election Committee Chairman Roman Lyasin said the referendum had received the backing of at least 89.7 percent of voters in the Donetsk region, according to preliminary overnight results, with 10.2 percent voting against and 0.7 percent of ballots declared invalid.
Lyasin said the results of the Luhansk referendum were still pending, but photo and video footage from the area showed long queues in front of makeshift polling stations, with exit polls claiming the independence bid was on its way to a resounding victory.
Voting in the city of Krasnoarmiisk to the northeast of the regional capital Donetsk was disrupted after troops of the Ukrainian National Guard encircled the polling center at city hall, stopping people from taking part in the referendum and shooting at least one person dead outside the building.
Lyasin told reporters the voter turnout had reached 77.8 percent before the voting was interrupted.
The vote has been organized by Ukrainian pro-federalization activists amid the continuing special operation by the Kiev authorities to crack down on the protesters using military force, with dozens of casualties.
Serhiy Pashynsky, the head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, said Sunday the “anti-terror operation” in Donetsk’s flashpoint cities of Kramatorsk, Slaviansk and Krasny Liman entered a “final phase” yesterday. He said Ukrainian troops had “wiped out a lot of separatists,” but didn’t cite any figures.
Earlier in the day, a representative of a regional election committee said that contact had been lost with two constituencies in Krasny Liman, after the city was “caught in the middle of hostilities.” The Interior Ministry of Ukraine also claimed it had razed all federalist-manned roadblocks on the roads to Krasny Liman.
The number of civilian casualties in Ukraine has been climbing steadily since the beginning of the month as the Kiev regime, backed by the West, continues to tighten its grip on federalist strongholds in southeastern regions of Ukraine.
Moscow has repeatedly condemned Kiev’s operation as a dangerous development with Russian President Vladimir Putin urging pro-federalization activists to put off the referendum to ensure the start of national dialog to resolve the ongoing crisis.