The head of Ukraine’s Lugansk separatist region said Sunday it may hold a referendum on becoming part of Russia, after Moscow sent troops into its pro-Western neighbour.
“I think that in the near future a referendum will be held on the territory of the republic, during which the people will… express their opinion on joining the Russian Federation,” Russian news agencies quoted Leonid Pasechnik as saying.
“I am sure this will be the case,” he said.
Russia launched its military action in Ukraine on February 24, saying it was acting in defence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics in the country’s east.
President Vladimir Putin had two days earlier recognised the two regions as independent.
The announcement of a possible referendum drew mixed reactions from Russian lawmakers.
“I think now is not the right time for this,” said Leonid Kalashnikov, a lawmaker who heads the committee on relations with the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States in Russia’s lower house of parliament.
“It is hardly necessary to occupy oneself with such questions when the fate at the front is being decided,” state news agency TASS quoted him as saying.
But Andrei Klishas, head of the constitutional legislation committee in the upper house, said the breakaway regions had every right to determine their own future.
“Russia has recognised the sovereignty of the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics,” he told state news agency RIA Novosti. “The authorities of these republics have the right to make any decisions in accordance with their constitutions.”
The industrial, mainly Russian-speaking regions broke from Kyiv’s control in 2014 in fighting that has claimed more than 14,000 lives.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine after a pro-Moscow leader was ousted in a popular uprising in Kyiv in February 2014 and a referendum was held in the southern region on becoming part of Russia.
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