Separatists: Ukraine referendum 'can stop civil war'

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.

Separatists voted unanimously to hold the referendum. Credit: REUTERS/Marko Djurica

"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.

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