The Times – November 3, 2014
DONETSK, Ukraine — Rebel election committees announced on Monday that the leaders of two breakaway regions in Ukraine had won enough votes to stay in power, as expected, and Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it “respected” the voting.
The central election committee in Donetsk said that the separatist leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the prime minister of the breakaway region called the Donetsk People’s Republic, had won the balloting there with about 78 percent of the vote. He will now have the title of head of the region. In the other breakaway region, Luhansk, election officials said Igor Plotnitsky had been elected as leader with about 63 percent of the vote.
The European Union and the United States had “implored” Russia to refrain from recognizing the vote, and the announcement in Moscow again widened a breach with Western governments over strategies for resolving the crisis in Ukraine.
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement carried by the government news agency Tass that said “the elections in Donetsk and Luhansk regions were held in an organized way in general and with high voter turnout.” The statement said the voting showed that “the elected representatives have received a mandate to solve political tasks and restore normal life in the regions.”
The outcome of the vote was never in much doubt. Rather than offering a range of plausible opposition candidates, the voting for members of Parliament and heads of state in Donetsk and Luhansk was significant in highlighting Ukraine’s loss of control over those territories, and Russia’s strengthening influence.
After voting, Mr. Zakharchenko said he had cast his vote for “peace,” the news agency RIA Novosti reported, because the election would force the central government in Kiev to “recognize us” and “give us our land back without a fight.” He added that he would “establish good diplomatic relations.”
In a statement on Sunday, Ukraine’s president, Petro O. Poroshenko, called the election a “farce” and again appealed to Russia to reject the results.
The elections cemented the status quo for Luhansk and Donetsk, which have been controlled in large part by pro-Russian separatists since the spring. Ukraine, along with the United States and the European Union, said the voting violated a cease-fire agreement signed in Minsk, the Belarussian capital, in September.
The cease-fire, which has been unraveling with daily shooting along the front lines, called for local elections to take place under Ukrainian law, and Kiev has scheduled city and village votes for Dec. 7. However, rebel leaders said they had no intention of allowing such elections to be held in Donetsk and Luhansk, and they scheduled their vote over the weekend instead.