Separatists in Ukraine debate Putin's referendum call
Thursday, May 08, 2014 - 01:52
May 8 - Pro-Russian activists in eastern Ukraine consider a proposal by Russian President Vladimir Putin to delay referendums on autonomy. Sarah Toms reports.
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Pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine stand on guard.
Here in Luhansk they've been occupying government buildings for weeks...
Behind these walls people have been busy setting up what they call an election commission.
Printers both here and in Donetsk have been churning out millions of ballots... for referendums on Sunday on whether to separate from Ukraine.
Moscow has vowed to protect the rights of the mostly Russian-speaking majority in the south and east against the government in Kiev.
But now Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be making a shift in policy.
(SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, SAYING:
"We call on the representatives of southeastern Ukraine, the supporters of the federalisation of the country, to postpone the referendum planned for May 11 this year."
Separatist leaders say they will put the matter before "people's councils".
SOUNDBITE) (Russian) PRESS OFFICER OF THE 'ARMY OF THE SOUTH EAST' SEPARATIST MOVEMENT, NIKOLA NIKITIN, SAYING:
"The command centre of the South East Army has only one reaction to this statement. All the people of Luhansk region wanted this referendum and that is why the people of Luhansk region have to decide whether to go ahead with the referendum as planned, or postpone it. That is why, tomorrow all the representatives of the Luhansk region will decide. Only people can decide when and where to have a referendum and what to discuss about the referendum."
The central government of Ukaine has denounced these elections as illegal.
But before residents can vote on independence, to become part of Russia or live in a united country, the focus will be on whether pro-Moscow separatists will listen to Putin or push ahead with the referendums.
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