Reports from Eastern Ukraine indicate that pro-Russian separatists in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk have voted for independence from Ukraine. Around 90% of the voters in Donetsk voted for independence from Ukraine, and reports from Luhansk suggest a similar outcome.
Separatist leaders from both Donetsk and Luhansk have indicated that the move will be followed up by referendums aimed at joining Russia. Such moves are not without precedent, as Crimea–a region in the southernmost part of Ukraine which serves as a key port on the Black Sea–voted overwhelmingly in mid-March to be annexed by Russia. The move came only days after the region voted to secede from Ukraine and become autonomous.
All three of the aforementioned regions have a large percentage of Russian citizens as a part of their population. According to the 2001 Ukrainian census, 58% of Crimea’s population is Russian with Donetsk’s percentage at 38% and Luhansk at 39%. All three regions represent areas of the country with the largest percentage of Russians.
As more regions of the country vie for independence, clashes between Ukrainian defense forces and pro-Russian separatists have increased. Six members of the Ukrainian armed forces have been killed in the most recent clash with armed separatists. The incident occurred in a region north of Donetsk; it was also reported that the minister of Luhansk was fired upon while riding in his motorcade, sustaining a gunshot wound that did not cause any major damage.
Acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov has resisted conceding Donetsk and Luhansk to the separatists, instead warning that Ukrainian armed forces offensives will seek to take back the eastern regions for Ukraine. Simultaneously, officials in Russia have warned against Ukraine seeking to join NATO.
Tensions remain high, as Ukraine continues to fracture with outside powers looking warily at the potential outcome. Continue to pray that the violence in the country will not escalate and that peaceful talks between all parties involved will progress. Pray also for the citizens of Ukraine, that they would remain safe amidst the chaos.