Russia says respecting choice of Donetsk, Lugansk

Updated: 2014-05-13 09:21


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Russia says respecting choice of Donetsk, Lugansk

 Ukraine crisis

MOSCOW -- Russia said Monday it respects the choice of people in Donetsk and Lugansk regions in Ukraine, while hoping for the implementation of the referendum results to be processed along civilized lines.

"We have taken note of high voter turnout despite attempts to derail the voting and we condemn the force used, including military hardware, against civilians, which lead to fatalities," the Kremlin press service said in a statement.

It added that Russia had been carefully monitoring the preparation and the course of the referenda.

Moscow called for dialogue between Kiev authorities and the two regions, saying "all mediation efforts, including by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, are welcome."

Local residents in Donetsk and Lugansk went to the polls Sunday in separate referenda over the regions' future status. Preliminary returns showed that some 89.07 percent of voters in Donetsk cast ballots in favor of independence from the government in Kiev.

In Lugansk, referendum organizers said about 96 percent of voters backed the region's sovereignty.

According to organizers, the turnout for the referenda in the two regions was 74.87 percent and 75 percent, respectively.

Sergei Naryshkin, speaker of the Russian State Duma, or the lower house of parliament, said the referenda "show their (local residents') wish to defend their rights, essentially, their wish to be free."

Meanwhile, Ukraine's acting President Olexandr Turchynov rejected the referenda, saying the recent events were Russia's plan aimed at destabilizing the situation in his country.

"The propagandistic farce, which terrorists qualify as the referendum, will have no legal consequences except the criminal responsibility for its organizers," Turchynov was quoted by the Ukrainian parliament's press service as saying.

Only 24 percent of eligible voters in Lugansk and some 32 percent in Donetsk had gone to the polls, he said.

Donetsk and Lugansk regions became an epicenter of the eastern protests in mid-April, when activists waving Russian flags seized government buildings, declared separatist republics, and announced plans to hold a referendum on seceding from Ukraine.

The referenda were held after Crimea joined Russia on March 18 following an independence referendum in the southern Ukraine peninsula, which was not recognized by the West.