Germany and US Criticize Donetsk Referendum, Russia Expects Invitation
The “People’s Donetsk Republic” and Luhansk plan on a referendum on Sunday, May 11, even though the Associated Press reported there are “no visible preparations for the vote.” Germany and the United States lashed out at the referendum, while Russia claimed it is expecting an invitation to observe the election.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said Germany believes this referendum will only worsen the situation in Ukraine, as Reuters reports:
"Such a referendum, against the Ukrainian constitution, does not calm things down but escalates them," Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told a news conference, adding that the people who had called the vote had no democratic legitimacy.
The U.S. State Department said America will not recognize the vote:
"This is the Crimea playbook all over again. No civilized nation will recognize the results. And if Russia takes the next step to re-enact its illegal Crimea annexation in eastern or southern Ukraine and sends more forces over the border, harsh US and EU sanctions will follow," US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
The referendum planned by separatists in the eastern Donbass region is similar to the one that preceded Russia's annexation of Crimea. Psaki called it "a bogus independence referendum," adding, "We flatly reject this illegal effort to further divide Ukraine."
Kiev scheduled a new presidential election on May 25 after parliament ousted Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovych on February 22. In mid-April, pro-Russian forces seized government buildings in the city of Donetsk in Donetsk Oblast and declared the region independent of Ukraine. The forces in charge chose to hold a referendum on May 11.
The Donetsk People’s Republic Central Elections Commission head Roman Liahin said they expect over 3 million votes on Sunday and no international observers:
"We have 3.2 million voters and we have printed approximately the same number of ballot papers. As of now, we have 2,224 polling stations but we will merge some of them and have about 1,200 polling stations in the end," Liahin said.
"We do not invite observers but we do not reject anyone either. We are always glad to have guests and we are ready to show the entire world that our referendum is honest and free. International observers have not filed their applications so far," Liahin continued.
However, Russian media are reporting observers from Russia will be on hand for the May 11 referendums. Russian Public Chamber member Georgy Federov said a small group will attend. "We're going to go to a small group, as a large number of observers may be unsafe," he stated. A few people have made the decision to go, Federov continued, saying, "I of the Public Chamber of Russia and several other community members."
The voting will be from 8:00 a.m to 10:00 p.m. local time. The ballot contains one question and does not include Ukraine or Russia. Instead, the question is: “Do you support the act of state independence of the Donetsk People’s Republic?”