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Militants in east Ukraine claim landslide vote for independence

Update: May, 12/2014 - 11:00

DONETSK, Ukraine — Pro-Russian militants claimed voters in eastern Ukraine massively backed independence in a disputed poll that Kiev and the West dismissed as an illegal "farce," with complete results awaited on Monday.

A total of 89 per cent of voters cast ballots in favour of self-rule in the Donetsk province, one of two regions holding "referendums" on Sunday, according to the insurgents' self-styled electoral commission.

Ten per cent voted against, and turnout was 75 per cent, the commission's chief, Roman Lyagin, told a news conference in the provincial hub of Donetsk.

"These can be considered the final results," he said, less than two hours after polls closed.

There was no immediate word of results from Lugansk, the other province holding a similar referendum. But the vote for independence there was expected to be similar to Donetsk's, or even exceed it.

The two regions are home to seven million people, out of Ukraine's total population of 46 million.

Kiev called the vote a "criminal farce" that had no legal validity, arguing that it was "inspired, organised and financed by the Kremlin."

The West also rejected the self-determination poll amid fears that these disputed votes could hasten the break-up of the former Soviet Republic and lead to a civil war on Europe's eastern edge. — AFP

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