Russia Ukraine Protests and Fighting: Pro-Russian Rebel Areas in Ukraine Hold Elections, Create Local Governing Body
A controversial election began in eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian rebels, and Western powers are urging Russian President Vladimir Putin not to recognize the process.
The eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk -- who were not included in the parliamentary elections last week -- held their own election Sunday, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
During the elections, Kiev accused Moscow of releasing 20 military vehicles into the rebel-controlled areas, and media reports suggest they were all stationed around polling locations.
The United Nations and Western powers say the election is not legitimate and results will not be recognized. They are urging Russia to do the same, but Russian officials have already said they intend to recognize the newly elected leaders.
Each of the two regions is voting on leaders to separately delegate over the Luhansk People's Republic and the Donetsk People's Republic, creating stronger independent rule in the area and further destabilizing Ukraine.
Luhansk has about 1.5 million voters choosing a leader and parliament, and Donetsk has about 3 million, according to RT.com.
Voters told RT that their voices were ignored in an independence referendum in May, and if the government in Kiev can handle an election to create a stable governing body, then so can the people of the region -- who stand united in their aim.
Polling stations have also been opened in Belgorod, Rostov and Voronezh -- neighboring Russian regions -- where many refugees from Luhansk and Donetsk reside.
The polling stations have all seen high voter turnouts since they first opened at 8 a.m. local time.
Donetsk already had an acting Prime Minister, as it was one of the first and the strongest region where rebel forces took a stand against Kiev.
Acting Prime Minister Aleksandr Zakharchenko had an 80 percent lead based on exit polls, according to RT.com. He is one of three candidates.
In Luhansk, there are four candidates vying for the leadership position.
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