Polling stations have opened in south-eastern Ukraine for the referendum on declaring independence for the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. The vote has been declared illegal by the Ukrainian, European and US leaders. Despite a public statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that the vote should be delayed, separatists have gone ahead and begun the process. There are no international observers even akin to the motley collection of European neo-Nazis and nostalgic communists assembled for the Crimean referendum held in March under Russian military occupation. The vote is likely to be declared an endorsement for secession by its organisers, raising fears that the Kremlin will make use of it, even at a later stage, (perhaps after further disruption to the May 25 Ukrainian presidential elections), as a pretext for intervention.
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