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I have become somewhat hesitant about writing diaries dealing with Ukraine because of the inevitable pie fights that the subject provokes. However, I think that the votes being conducted by separatists today are a significant event that is likely to lead to other significant events.

It is not unusual for people to dispute the outcomes of elections. However, here we have a situation where there is extensive disagreement about holding these elections in the first place. They are being strongly condemned by the interim government in Kiev and by western governments. Even Putin has at least publicly withdrawn his support for them. The Guardian's live blog is a good place to track the many confusing reports that are coming by tweet.

Long queues have formed outside polling stations in a hastily organised plebiscite on independence in eastern Ukraine. Most people appear to have voted in favour of self-rule event though what this means exactly is unclear. "No" voters mostly stayed away.

The ballots seek approval for declaring 'people's republics' in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where rebels have seized government buildings and clashed with police and Ukrainian troops over the past month.

The referendums went ahead despite Vladimir Putin's call for a postponement.

Germany and France have threatened Russia with further sanctions if the 25 May Ukrainian presidential election in does not go ahead as planned.

In Crimea It seems likely that Russia organized the vote to secede from Ukraine and they certainly enforced the announced results by incorporating the territory into the Russian Federation. Whether today's votes have any practical meaning will depend on whether Russia decides to use them as a basis for taking any action. Western governments are in strong agreement that they will not recognize them as valid. If Russia takes no formal action in recognizing them, then they will have been largely a publicity exercise. What is for all practical purposes a Ukrainian civil war will continue.

The next critical date will be May 25th when the entire country is scheduled to conduct a extraordinary presidential election. If that is somehow disrupted then it will likely be a more significant event than today's doings. What seems most likely at this point is that it will proceed in the western and central regions of the country and there will be controversy about it in the east and south.  

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