Ukraine separatists ignore Putin’s call to postpone referendum
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Pro-Russian activists on Thursday anonymously voted to go ahead with a referendum over the independence of a separatist-held region in Ukraine’s east, ignoring Russian President Vladimir Putin's call to delay the controversial vote.
“We have just voted in the People’s Council...The date of the referendum was endorsed by 100 percent. The referendum will take place on May 11,” Denis Pushilin, the self-declared leader of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, said.
Putin on Wednesday urged the separatists to pospone the vote.
Ukraine’s government and its Western allies have urgently sought to halt the referendum since they fear the referendum could lead to a repeat of Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea, albeit on a much larger scale.
The United States and European Union – which have so far imposed only limited sanctions targeting Russian nationals and small firms because of Moscow’s meddling in Ukraine’s crisis – have threatened to impose much wider sanctions on Russian industry if Moscow takes further steps to interfere in Ukraine.
Sunday’s planned referendum was seen as a potential trigger for such sanctions.
The prospect that further sanctions might be imposed has already hurt Russia’s economy indirectly by scaring investors into pulling out capital and forcing the central bank to raise interest rates to protect the rouble.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)