People in eastern Ukraine declare independence

Updated: 2014-05-13 09:20


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People in eastern Ukraine declare independence

People hold a rally to mark and celebrate the announcement of the results of the referendum on the status of Luhansk region in Luhansk May 12, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]

People in eastern Ukraine declare independence

 Ukraine crisis

DONETSK, Ukraine -- Pro-Moscow protesters in eastern Ukraine declared independence Monday and sought to join Russia, undermining Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, strengthening the Kremlin's hand and putting pressure on Kiev to hold talks with the representatives of the east part of the country.

Russia signaled it has no immediate intention to annex the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, like it did with Crimea following a similar referendum in March.

The cautious stance appears to reflect Russian President Vladimir Putin's hope of negotiating a solution to the crisis in Ukraine.

The Kremlin also urged the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to help broker talks between the central government in Kiev and representatives of the east after Sunday's vote.

Such talks are central to a potential path toward peace outlined Monday by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The plan laid out by Swiss President Didier Burkhalter calls on all sides to refrain from violence and urges immediate amnesty, talks on decentralization and the status of the Russian language.

But it's up to the Ukrainian government to take the next step.

Acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk pledged Monday to hold talks with those in Ukraine's east. But he gave no specifics and did not address Sunday's vote or the declarations of independence by the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

"We would like to launch the broad national dialogue with the east, center, the west, and all of Ukraine," Yatsenyuk told a news conference in Brussels, adding that the agenda should include changes to the constitution to give more power to the regions.

With a national presidential election scheduled in 13 days, the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk declared independence Monday, and those in Donetsk even asked to join neighboring Russia.

"We, the people of the Donetsk People's Republic, based on the results of the May 11, 2014, referendum . declare that henceforth the Donetsk People's Republic will be deemed a sovereign state," Denis Pushilin, co-chairman of the insurgent government, said to applause Monday.

Wearing an ill-fitting suit and reading his speech from a laptop, he continued.

"The people of Donetsk have always been part of the Russian world, regardless of ethnic affiliation. For us, the history of Russia is our history," he said.

A day earlier, both regions held a vote that Ukraine's acting president called a "sham" and western governments said violated international law.

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