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Updated: Mon, 12 May 2014 04:29:32 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Ukraine crisis: 2 regions opt for sovereignty, insurgents say



People show Ukrainian passports as they stand in a line to enter a polling station and take part in the referendum on the status of Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Moscow May 11, 2014. Rebels pressed ahead with a referendum on self-rule in east Ukraine on Sunday and fighting flared anew in a conflict that has raised fears of civil war and pitched Russia and the West into their worst crisis since the Cold War. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin (© RUSSIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST ELECTIONS)

People show Ukrainian passports as they stand in a line to enter a polling station and take part in the referendum on the status of Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Moscow May 11, 2014. Rebels pressed ahead with a referendum on self-rule in east Ukraine on Sunday and fighting flared anew in a conflict that has raised fears of civil war and pitched Russia and the West into their worst crisis since the Cold War. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin (RUSSIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST ELECTIONS) - RTR3ON99 Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

The Kremlin says Ukraine's government should engage in a dialogue with eastern regions following Sunday's referendums there, where about 90 per cent of votes backed sovereignty for their regions.

The Russian administration voiced its hope in a statement Monday that "the practical implementation of the referendums results will take place in a civilized way," without violence.

It added that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe could help organize a dialogue between Ukraine's government and representatives of the east.

According to early returns Monday, 89 per cent of those who cast ballots Sunday in the Donetsk region and between 94 and 98 per cent of those who turned out in the neighbouring Luhansk region voted for sovereignty.

The pro-Russian insurgents who organized the vote said the ultimate status of the regions would be discussed later and could include the possibility of secession or annexation by Russia.

Ukraine's central government and the West have condemned the balloting as a sham and a violation of international law, and accused Moscow of fomenting the unrest in a possible attempt to grab more land weeks after the annexation of Crimea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had urged the organizers to postpone the vote in an apparent attempt to distance himself from the insurgents and keep his hands free for bargaining with the West on defusing the crisis.

His spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, was quoted by the Kommersant daily Monday as saying that it was difficult for people in the east to heed Putin's call because of fighting in the region.

The insurgents in the east have seized government buildings and clashed with government troops and police over the past month. More than 30 people have been reported killed since Ukrainian forces began trying to retake some eastern cities from the insurgents.

Sunday's voting in the two regions with a combined population of 6.5 million appeared mostly peaceful, but armed men identified as members of the Ukrainian national guard opened fire on a crowd outside the town hall in Krasnoarmeisk, and an official with the region's insurgents said people were killed. It was not clear how many.

The bloodshed took place hours after dozens of armed men shut down the voting in the town.

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