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Ukraine vote sparks war fears

Friday, May 09, 2014 - 02:10

May 9 - Victory Day celebrations in Moscow have been greeted by a wave of patriotism following Russia's annexation of Crimea. But the sentiment is spreading to eastern Ukraine too, where pro-Moscow separatists are ignoring calls from Vladimir Putin to postpone a referendum on self-rule. Ivor Bennett reports on the potential fallout should the vote take place.

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If there was any doubt over who controls Crimea, there certainly isn't now. Russian President Vladimir Putin arriving in Sevastopol to a hero's welcome - the city's Victory Day celebrations taking on added significance. It's Putin's first visit to the region since it was annexed from Ukraine in March. His presence likely to stoke tensions even further. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RUSSIAN PRESIDENT, VLADIMIR PUTIN, SAYING: "I am sure that 2014 will go down in history, in the history of our whole country, as the year when all citizens here, the people, resolutely decided to be together with Russia." Victory Day is a prominent celebration across the former Soviet Union. The bumper parade in Moscow a timely reminder of Russia's military might. Kiev though, was in stark contrast. Ukraine's authorities holding a low-key ceremony in a bid to avoid clashes. An irony not lost on Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk. (SOUNDBITE) (Ukrainian) UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER, ARSENY YATSENIUK, SAYING: "Sixty-nine years ago we were fighting, shoulder-to-shoulder, with Russia, against fascism, and we won. But today Russia started a war against Ukraine, and history is repeating itself in a different way. Russia has to stop supporting terrorists who are killing peaceful people in Ukraine and against whom we have started an anti-terrorist operation" But it seems the pro-Russian separatists are listening to no one, not even Putin himself. The Russian President's call to postpone a referendum on independence falling on deaf ears. Those in Slaviansk are in no mood for dialogue. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) SEPARATIST LEADER PAVEL GUBAREV, SAYING: "Today we live when fascism raises its wild face again, personified by the Kiev junta that took over the power with armed force. We will never recognise those authorities." Ballots are already being distributed ahead of Sunday's poll, which the West fears could tear the country apart. Organisers say the million people are eligible to vote.

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Ukraine vote sparks war fears

Friday, May 09, 2014 - 02:10