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Ukraine Rebels Watch Scotland Vote with Envy

Ukraine Rebels Watch Scotland Vote with Envy

Why isn’t England bombing the Scottish separatists,” demands one supporter of the pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine in a Twitter post under a picture of the Scottish flag.

Insurgents and their supporters have taken to social media to mock the possible break-up of Britain in next week’s referendum on Scottish independence — and press their fight for their own state in eastern Ukraine.

One picture on Twitter shows a mock-up of Igor Strelkov, an alleged Russian intelligence agent who was once seen as the driving force behind the Ukraine rebellion, dressed in full Scottish garb including kilt and sporran.

Underneath it says in Ukrainian “Scotlandia will be free”.

Another shows a montage of Queen Elizabeth II and Barack Obama, with the British monarch asking the US president for help in stopping Scotland from leaving.

Pro-Russian leaders in Crimea have joined in too, demanding that if the world recognises a “yes” vote in Scotland, it should do the same for the Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia in March after a hastily-arranged referendum.

However unlike the moves by Scottish nationalists to break away from the United Kingdom, the battle for Ukraine has been mired in bloodshed.

– ‘Nobody takes us seriously’ –

At least 2,700 people have been killed since the military launched a massive offensive in mid-April against separatist militias who seized a string of towns and cities in the eastern region known as Donbass.

Petro Shevchuk, 56, a rebel clearing unexploded ordnance from train tracks in the insurgent held-town of Ilovaysk east of Donetsk, questioned why they had to take up arms for independence when Scotland could have a peaceful referendum.

Separatists in the mainly Russian-speaking Donbass, a vital economic region littered with coal mines and massive steelworks, insist they will not abandon their drive for independence as part of what some call Novorossiya (New Russia).

The term has become a rallying cry for those who accuse the pro-Western leaders in Kiev of stirring anti-Russian sentiment and using right-wing thugs to put down the eastern uprising.

Both Donetsk and Lugansk declared sovereignty after a May referendum branded illegal and a farce by Kiev and the West.

Poroshenko told his cabinet on Wednesday he would submit a bill to parliament next week granting more autonomy to parts of the east.

– ‘No concessions’ –

But he said the law authorising temporary self-rule for Donetsk and Lugansk would keep them part of the ex-Soviet state.

The eastern regions are the powerhouse of Ukraine’s economy, generating a quarter of national exports in an area that has a sixth of the total population of 45 million.

Litvinov, the rebel parliament speaker, compared his cause to other independence movements in Scotland, Catalonia and the Basque country and said the Ukraine uprising should be dealt with peacefully.

And Crimea’s Kremlin-loyal acting leader Sergei Aksyonov said the West would have “no other option” but to back the peninsula’s move to break from Ukraine if it accepts a Scottish vote to split from Britain.

Unlike the years of planning for the Scottish vote, the Crimea referendum was arranged in a matter of days after the peninsula was seized by suspected Russian troops, and voters were given only the choice of joining Russia or effectively breaking from Ukraine.

One poster on Twitter suggested the uprisings in a country that was part of the Soviet Union until 1991 was the work of just one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Yet some in the town of Ilovaysk, which was captured by rebels in early September after three weeks of clashes, have more immediate concerns than events almost 4,000 kilometres away.

Lyubov Fyodorova, 59, was clearing up after her home was hit by shelling. Asked if she had heard of the referendum in Scotland she shrugged.

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