Ukraine crisis: Pro-Russian activists vote to go ahead


Pro-Russian activists in eastern Ukraine have said they will not postpone a referendum on autonomy planned for Sunday, the BBC reports.
The decision comes one day after Russian President Vladimir Putin called for the vote to be postponed to create the conditions necessary for dialogue.
Ukrainian authorities say they will disregard the results and that “anti-terror” operations will continue.
Millions of ballot papers have been prepared for the vote.
Separatists in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk are adamant the referendums will go ahead.
On Wednesday, the White House said the “illegitimate, illegal” plebiscite should be cancelled rather than postponed. The US and the European Union have imposed sanctions against several Russian individuals and businesses and threatened wider measures if Moscow interferes further in eastern Ukraine. Sunday’s planned referendum was seen as a potential trigger for that.
Ukrainian interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniyuk dismissed Mr Putin’s calls to delay the referendum as “hot air”. But the Russian president appeared to depart further from policy when he said that this month’s presidential elections in Ukraine were a move “in the right direction”.
President Putin also announced he was ordering Russian troops back from the Ukrainian border. But on Thursday, one day after those comments, NATO said there was no sign of any Russian troop withdrawal.
Russia test-fires several ballistic missiles
Russia on Thursday test-launched several ballistic missiles during planned exercises overseen by President Vladimir Putin, news reports said, as a crisis raged in neighbouring Ukraine, channelnewsasia.com informs.
The Russian military fired a Topol intercontinental ballistic missile from its northern test site in Plesetsk, as well as “several” shorter-range missiles from its submarines in the Northern and Pacific Fleets, news agencies cited defence officials as saying.
Other military maneuvers involved the launch from an undisclosed location in western Russia of air-to-surface rockets by Tu-95 strategic bombers, and the entry into the English Channel of a Northern Fleet armada led by the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov.
The exercises, overseen by Putin and four visiting presidents from Kremlin-allied ex-Soviet states, were staged ahead of Russia’s commemoration on Friday of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

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