The Crisis In Ukraine Just Became Officially Worse

Alexander ZakharchenkoShamil Zhumatov/ReutersPrime Minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic Alexander Zakharchenko walks to meet local residents during his election campaign tour to the southern coastal town of Novoazovsk, October 18, 2014.

A pro-Russian separatist leader was sworn in on Tuesday as the head of a self-proclaimed ‘people’s republic’ in eastern Ukraine in a ceremony that worsened a standoff with Russia.

Alexander Zakharchenko, who was elected in a rogue vote on Sunday that was denounced as a “farce” by Kiev and illegitimate by the West, took the oath to “honestly serve the interests of the people of the Donetsk People’s Republic and conscientiously fulfil my duties.”

Before the ceremony, which took place in a drama theatre in Donetsk, a big industrial city and the separatists’ stronghold, another separatist figure, Andrei Purgin, said: “We are starting a history with this inauguration and what happens today will be repeated. We are laying down the traditions of the Republic.”

Kiev’s pro-Western leaders fear that a new “frozen conflict” could now be created in its eastern regions and further threaten the territorial unity of Ukraine, which lost control of its Crimean peninsula in March when it was annexed by Russia.

(Reporting by Thomas Grove; Writing By Richard Balmforth; editing by Anna Willard)

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This article originally appeared at Reuters. Copyright 2014. Follow Reuters on Twitter.

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