The head of Ukraine’s separatist Lugansk region on Sunday said it might hold a referendum to become part of Russia, after Moscow sent troops to its pro-Western neighbor.
“I think in the near future a referendum will be held in the territory of the republic, where the people will … express their opinion to join the Russian Federation,” the Russian news agency quoted Leonid Pasechnik as saying.
“I’m sure this will happen,” he said.
Russia launched its military action in Ukraine on February 24, saying it was acting to defend the self -declared republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in the east of the country.
President Vladimir Putin two days earlier recognized the two provinces as independent.
The announcement of the possible referendum got a mixed reaction from Russian lawmakers.
“I think now is not the right time for this,” said Leonid Kalashnikov, a lawmaker who heads a committee on relations with the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States in the lower house of Russia’s parliament.
“It is not necessary to preoccupy oneself with such questions when the fate ahead is being decided,” state news agency TASS quoted him as saying.
But Andrei Klishas, head of the constitutional legislative committee in the upper house, said the separatist provinces have the right to determine their own future.
“Russia has recognized the sovereignty of the People’s Republic of Lugansk and Donetsk,” he told state news agency RIA Novosti. “These republican authorities have the right to make any decision in accordance with their constitution.”
Industrial areas, mainly Russian -speaking broke out of Kyiv control in 2014 in fighting that has claimed more than 14,000 lives.
Russia took 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 to become part of Russia.
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