MOSCOW, May 12 (Xinhua) -- Russia said Monday it respects the choice of people in Donetsk and Lugansk regions in Ukraine, while hoping for the implementation of the referendum results to be processed along civilized lines.
"We have taken note of high voter turnout despite attempts to derail the voting and we condemn the force used, including military hardware, against civilians, which lead to fatalities," the Kremlin press service said in a statement.
It added that Russia had been carefully monitoring the preparation and the course of the referenda.
Moscow called for dialogue between Kiev authorities and the two regions, saying "all mediation efforts, including by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, are welcome."
Local residents in Donetsk and Lugansk went to the polls Sunday in separate referenda over the regions' future status. Preliminary returns showed that some 89.07 percent of voters in Donetsk cast ballots in favor of independence from the government in Kiev.
In Lugansk, referendum organizers said about 96 percent of voters backed the region's sovereignty.
According to organizers, the turnout for the referenda in the two regions was 74.87 percent and 75 percent, respectively.
Sergei Naryshkin, speaker of the Russian State Duma, or the lower house of parliament, said the referenda "show their (local residents') wish to defend their rights, essentially, their wish to be free."
Meanwhile, Ukraine's acting President Olexandr Turchynov rejected the referenda, saying the recent events were Russia's plan aimed at destabilizing the situation in his country.
"The propagandistic farce, which terrorists qualify as the referendum, will have no legal consequences except the criminal responsibility for its organizers," Turchynov was quoted by the Ukrainian parliament's press service as saying.
Only 24 percent of eligible voters in Lugansk and some 32 percent in Donetsk had gone to the polls, he said.
Donetsk and Lugansk regions became an epicenter of the eastern protests in mid-April, when activists waving Russian flags seized government buildings, declared separatist republics, and announced plans to hold a referendum on seceding from Ukraine.
The referenda were held after Crimea joined Russia on March 18 following an independence referendum in the southern Ukraine peninsula, which was not recognized by the West.
[Photos]89.07% voters in Ukraine's Donetsk back region's independence
Ukraine's Donetsk vote overwhelmingly in favor of independence
DONETSK, Ukraine, May 11 (Xinhua) -- The breakaway group in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region says 89.07 percent of voters backed independence in its referendum Sunday.
The turnout for the referendum was 74.87 percent, and 10.1 percent voted against independence, head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic's electoral commission, Roman Lyagin, said late Sunday. Full story
Kremlin backs referendum in eastern Ukraine
MOSCOW, May 12 (Xinhua) -- Russia said Monday it respects the choice of people in Donetsk and Lugansk regions in Ukraine, while hoping implementation of the referendum results to be processed along civilized lines.
"We have taken note of high voter turnout despite attempts to derail the voting and we condemn the force used, including military hardware, against civilians, which lead to fatalities," the Kremlin press service said in a statement. Full story
Kiev rejects referendums in eastern Ukraine
KIEV, May 12 (Xinhua) -- Ukrainian acting President Olexandr Turchynov on Monday rejected referendums in eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions, in which polls showed around 90 percent of people vote in favor of independence from central government in Kiev.
"The propagandistic farce, which terrorists qualify as the referendum, will have no legal consequences except the criminal responsibility for its organizers," Turchynov was quoted by the parliament' s press service as saying. Full story
U.S. says no recognition of referendums results in Ukraine's eastern regions
WASHINGTON, May 11 (Xinhua) -- The United States on Sunday rejected the referendums being held in two regions of eastern Ukraine over their future status, saying it would not recognize the results.
"As the United States has said, the referendums being planned for May 11 in portions of eastern Ukraine by armed separatist groups are illegal under Ukrainian law and are an attempt to create further division and disorder," State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said in a written statement. Full story
Merkel, Hollande see vote in east Ukraine as illegal
BERLIN, May 11 (Xinhua) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on Saturday declared a planned referendum in eastern Ukraine as illegal.
During Hollande's visit to Germany's northern port city of Stralsund, the two leaders issued a joint statement on the Ukraine crisis. Full story
Britain "regrets" referendum in Ukraine
LONDON, May 11 (Xinhua) -- The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on Sunday said in a statement that it "regrets" the referendum in Ukraine.
Commenting on referendums held Sunday in Ukraine, a FCO spokesperson claimed to be "regrettable," adding that Ukrainians will have "a proper opportunity to express their democratic choice in the forthcoming presidential elections" in Ukraine on May 25. Full story