DONETSK: Denis Pushilin, co-chairman of the government of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine, told Itar-Tass on Wednesday that he does not rule out the postponement of a referendum on independence scheduled for May 11.
“Tomorrow [May 8] we will put the issue [on plebiscite put-off]to the vote at the people’s council,” Pushilin said.
Earlier Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow is asking Ukrainian federalization supporters to postpone the referendum to a later date to create conditions for it.
“We are asking representatives of Ukraine’s Southeast, supporters of the country’s federalization, to postpone the referendum scheduled for May 11 in order to create proper conditions for this dialogue,” Putin said after talks with Swiss President and Chairperson-in-Office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Didier Burkhalter.
The Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine plan to hold plebiscites on state independence on May 11.
After Crimea’s incorporation by Russia in March, massive protests against the new Ukrainian authorities, who came to power in Kiev amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February, erupted in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeast. Protesters, who have seized some government buildings, demand broader powers for the country’s regions.
The Kiev authorities have been conducting an antiterrorism operation in eastern Ukraine. Russia, which does not recognize the de facto Ukrainian leaders, brought to power by the coup, has condemned the operation, apparently aimed to clamp down on Ukrainian nationals supporting federalization.
At least 46 people died on May 2 in clashes and a fire in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa where radicals set ablaze the Trade Unions House, where pro-federalization activists hid, and a tent camp where activists were collecting signatures for a referendum on federalization and for the status of a state language for Russian.
The Crimean Peninsula’s urge to reunify with Russia was caused by the republic’s refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the new Kiev authorities. In a March 16 referendum, Crimeans overwhelmingly voted to secede from Ukraine and accede to Russia. The reunification deal with Moscow was signed March 18. PNA