Donetsk steams through another Soviet-style vote, so now what?

Christopher Miller writes: The people have spoken. But what exactly they said is a question and whether anyone in power in Ukraine or Russia take their wishes into account is yet another one.

Will it mean the breakup of Ukraine? Or finally a fierce response from the West and the central government in Kyiv? Will Donetsk and Luhansk become stand-alone states within Ukraine or be absorbed into Vladimir Putin’s growing empire, just as the Russian president took Crimea in March?

On the morning after the May 11 vote, no one seemed to know the fate of the two oblasts that collectively make up 15 percent of Ukraine’s population.

Separatist election officials reported 89 percent for seceding and 10 percent against doing so in Donetsk Oblast. Preliminary results in neighboring Luhansk Oblast were not immediately released, but de facto election officials from the separatist camp there reported a 79 percent turnout and a similar result is expected.

Some of the uncertainly was due to the vaguely worded ballot, which asked: “Do you support the act of self-rule of the Donetsk People’s Republic?” The only answers available were “yes” and “no.”

But the votes needed not to be tallied to know the result. It was clear from the beginning and made even more apparent throughout the day, as Soviet-style tactics of ballot stuffing, manipulation and intimidation were observed at polling stations across the regions: the referenda in the so-called “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk would pass.

Still, some weren’t quite sure what that meant. [Continue reading…]

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