Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have ignored a public call by Vladimir Putin to postpone a referendum on independence, saying a vote could halt civil war in the region.
Denis Pushilin, a leader of the self-declared separatist Donetsk People's Republic, said that the "People's Council" had voted unanimously to hold the referendum as planned.
"Civil war has already begun. The referendum can put a stop to it and start a political process," he said.
Ukrainian officials have vowed to press on with their "anti-terrorist campaign" to retake control over the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk regardless of the rebels' decision on the vote.
European Union foreign ministers added 13 people to their visa ban and asset freeze list over Ukraine's crisis.
Well that’s the voting over, and no surprises so far. A ‘Yes’ vote claimed to be 89% in Donetsk, and suddenly Ukraine is no more.
Nearly 90 percent of voters in eastern Ukrainian region voted for self-rule, the head of the separatist election commission said.