Ukraine rebel vote drives further wedge between Russia and West

Prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, holds the Donetsk People's Republic's flag during its presentation in the eastern city of Donetsk on October 19, 2014Pro-Russian separatists controlling swathes of east Ukraine are set to hold leadership polls on Sunday that Moscow has backed despite condemnation from Kiev and the West. While insurgent leaders hope the first elections in their “republics” will show they have popular support, Ukraine and the West fear the ballot is being staged to drag the Russian-speaking industrial east further from the grip of Kiev’s pro-Western government. “The elections will allow us to build a legitimate government,” said rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko, the self-appointed prime minister of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic. Like his counterpart in neighbouring breakaway region Lugansk, Igor Plotnitsky, Zakharchenko is favourite to win the election in the fiefdom his armed fighters control.

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