The east Ukraine referendum is over, and as widely expected, the vast majority have picked independence. From AFP's Marc Burleigh:
Rebel vote-counter Roman Lyagin tells reporters in #Ukraine's Donetsk that 89.07% voted in favour, 10.19% against - 'final results' he says— Marc Burleigh (@marcburleigh) May 11, 2014
RIA adds that according to Ukraine rebels, the final turnout in the Donetsk vote was 74.87%.
Some comments from those voting for independence:
We are Russian. Of course we hope to be united with Russia," declared another early morning voter, 55-year-old businesswoman Galina.
"I voted against the Nazis in Kiev, which are supported by the U.S. and Europe. I voted for an independent Donbass," said the 63-year-old, referring to a largely pro-independence region in eastern Ukraine.
Here is Europe:
"What is happening in Donetsk and Lugansk does not make any sense," said French president Francois Hollande
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"Figures from fake referendums in Eastern Ukraine likely to be fake" Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt says on his Twitter account.
As for the Ukraine response, that too was in line with expectations:
"This is a step into the abyss for the regions," Oleksandr Turchynov said in comments posted on the presidential website Saturday.
Acting chief of the Ukrainian presidential administration Sergiy Pashinski said: "The turnout throughout the whole region amounts to zero as far as formalities are concerned.
"I would like to underline one more time it's not a referendum. It is a desultory attempt by terrorists, bandits and killers to cover their activity by having citizens vote in Luhansk and Donetsk."
But most concerning is the following: "Ukraine’s army is ready to fight back should Russia attack it after referendums in Ukrainian eastern regions are completed, BBC reports, citing Head of Defense and Security Council Andriy Parubiy as saying in interview. Should Russia recognize referendums and take active steps against its neighbor, “I reiterate once again that Ukraine will defend its territory."
And since the Donetsk republic is now officially independent, if only in its and Putin's eyes, thereby giving Russia a green light to arrive and "keep the peace", the next and far more violent escalation in the Ukraine conflict now appears inevitable.