Ukrainian separatist leader says looking to union with Russia

Reuters News
Posted: May 12, 2014 11:11 AM

DONETSK, Ukraine (Reuters) - One of the leaders of eastern Ukraine's separatist rebellion said on Monday that joining the Russian Federation would probably be an "appropriate step" following a weekend referendum on self-rule.

Separatist leaders said they had received over 80 percent support for self-rule in a referendum on Sunday that was denounced by Kiev as bogus.

"Joining the Russian Federation would probably be an appropriate step," Roman Lyagin, head of the electoral commission, told a news conference in Donetsk.

Denis Pushilin, another senior member of the rebel leadership in Donetsk, said however that there were no plans for any follow-up referendum next Sunday. Some people in the east have said a second referendum should be held to determine the ultimate fate of Donetsk and neighboring province Luhansk, now that they have voted for self rule.

"Which country we will join will be decided after consultations with experts," he said.

The two regions have declared themselves to be the "Donetsk People's Republic" and "Luhansk People's Republic", disavowing links with Kiev.

Separatist leaders have accused Kiev of launching an armed onslaught against eastern regions and say any door to negotiations with the national leadership was closing.

Both Lyagin and Pushilin have in the past spoken of the possibility of union with Russia, which Kiev accuses of fomenting the rebellion in the east.

(Writing by Ralph Boulton; Reporting by Matt Robinson; Editing by Peter Graff)