DONETSK, Ukraine - Ninety percent of voters in a key industrial region in eastern Ukraine came out in favor of sovereignty today, pro-Russian insurgents said in announcing preliminary results of a twin referendum that is certain to deepen the turmoil in the country.
Roman Lyagin, election chief of the self-styled Donetsk People's Republic, said around 75 percent of the Donetsk region's 3 million or so eligible voters cast ballots, and the vast majority backed self-rule.
With no international election monitors in place, it was all but impossible to verify the insurgents' claims. The preliminary vote count was announced just two hours after the polls closed in an election conducted via paper ballots.
A second referendum organized by pro-Russian separatists was held today in eastern Ukraine's industrial Luhansk region, but no immediate results were released.
Ukraine's central government and the West had condemned the balloting as a sham and a violation of international law, and they have accused Moscow of orchestrating the unrest in a possible attempt to grab another piece of the country weeks after the annexation of Crimea.
The results of the two referendums could hasten the breakup of the country and worsen what is already the gravest crisis between the West and Russia since the end of the Cold War.