Ukraine crisis: Pro-Russian separatists defy Putin as Ukraine 'sends 15,000 troops' to the border

Separatists from the Donetsk People's Republic have refused Putin's request to postpone a referendum on independence

Attempts to diffuse the growing crisis in Ukraine have floundered as Russia accused the government of sending 15,000 troops to the border and separatists from the troubled east defied President Vladimir Putin's request to postpone a referendum on independence.

"The referendum will be on May 11," Miroslav Rudenko, co-chairman of the self-declared government of the "Donetsk People's Republic" (DPR), was quoted as saying.

The decision to hold the vote as planned was unanimous, said Denis Pushilin, co-chairman of the DPR added.

Despite Putin urging separatists to delay a vote, Ukraine said its anti-terror operation would continue. At least 34 people, including many rebels, have died in that offensive which was launched last week, the government said.

Meanwhile, Russia's Defence Ministry claimed Ukraine had assembled 15,000 troops on its border with Russia and demanded the West to stop "cynically misinforming" the international community about events on the frontier between the two countries.

Earlier, Mr Putin had appeared to be softening his tone in the confrontation with the West by asking for pro-Russian activists to postpone a referendum on autonomy in Ukraine's troubled east ahead of a presidential vote on 25 May.

The presidential elections were "a step in the right direction", Mr Putin added, a remark that came heavily in contrast to comments made by his spokesperson describing them as "absurd" the day before.

The European Union has warned the referendum in eastern Ukraine "would have no democratic legitimacy and could only further worsen the situation."

PUTIN AWARDS PRO-KREMLIN JOURNALISTS FOR 'OBJECTIVE COVERAGE'

The ballot is due to take place on Sunday and asks: “Do you support the act of proclamation of independent sovereignty for the Donetsk People's Republic?”

Separatist leaders in Donetsk and Luhansk say they will consider Mr Putin's request to postpone the vote and say they will put the matter "before people's councils".

The White House has responded by dismissing the vote as “illegal” and called for it to be cancelled instead of delayed.

 

 

In an unexpected move, Mr Putin said Russian troops have been pulled back to their training grounds and locations for “regular exercises”, but he did not specify whether those locations were in areas near its border with Ukraine.

But Nato and the US said they saw no indication of a Russian pullback, and the pro-Russia insurgents behind the referendum have not agreed to go along with Mr Putin's proposal.

Many had feared that Sunday's vote would be a flashpoint for further violence between the rebels and Ukrainian troops.

A man prepares ballots and flyers for a planned referendum seeking greater autonomy from the central government in Kiev, scheduled for May 11 A man prepares ballots and flyers for a planned referendum seeking greater autonomy from the central government in Kiev, scheduled for May 11 Mr Putin said: “We believe that the most important thing is to create direct, full-fledged dialogue between the Kiev authorities and representatives of south-east Ukraine.

”Because of this, we ask that representatives of south-east Ukraine, supporters of federalisation in the country, postpone the May 11 referendum in order to create the necessary conditions for such a dialogue”

But it is unclear how much influence Moscow has with the insurgents, and many Donetsk residents appear eager to go ahead with the vote.

Additional reporting by agencies

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voices conversations is an offensive act
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices