East Ukraine Is Disintegrating Amid Rebel Referendums

“This is a step into the abyss for the regions.” – Ukraine interim President Oleksandr Turchynov

Pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine are holding ad hoc referendums so that they can declare so-called sovereign people’s republics in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. And, echoing Crimea, it sounds like the results are a foregone Crimea.

“All [Ukrainian] military troops on our territory after the official announcement of referendum results will be considered illegal and declared occupiers,” Denis Pushilin, a leader of the self-styled Donetsk republic announced. “It is necessary to form state bodies and military authorities as soon as possible.”

Kiev and the West consider the votes illegal while the vast majority of Ukrainians want to remain a united country, but that may not matter. The armed men in charge are determined to break away from Ukraine, and there are no international observers present to stop them from rigging the vote.

A Donetsk referendum organiser told Mike Giglio of Buzzfeed, who has been reporting from Ukraine throughout the crisis, that they hadn’t invited any “official” observers, but “anyone who wants to can observe.”

That quote, and this photo of the “Central Electoral Commission of Donetsk” on the eve of the referendum, sum up what’s happening today in east Ukraine.

Here’s a look at how the two regions got to this point:

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