Ukrainian Rebels Declare 'Victory' Amid Voter Fraud Claims

Early election results showed a majority of voters in Donetsk and Luhansk support self rule. Ukraine's government did not recognize the results.

Ukrainian Rebels Declare 'Victory' Amid Voter Fraud Claims
Kyiv Post / Kostyantyn Chernichkin

Pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine have declared victory in their referendums for self-rule. Question is, was the voting even legal?  

Twin referendums were held Sunday in two of Ukraine’s most tense regions — Donetsk and Luhansk. The Ukrainian government and its western allies dismissed the balloting as a sham organized by Russia. (Via Ukraine News One)

Early election results show about 89 percent of voters in Donetsk wanted expanded sovereignty. In neighboring Luhansk — 96 percent. (Via YouTube / Graham Phlilips

But recent polling from the Pew Research Center paints a different picture. It found more than 70 percent of eastern Ukraine citizens do not want to secede from Ukraine.

Some observers of Sunday’s voting pointed out many of the 'no' voters simply stayed home, and that may partly explain the strong separatist sentiment reflected in the results.

Of course, there's no way to independently verify the results released by the separatists since no international monitors were on hand to oversee voting. (Via Euronews

The BBC describes the level of organization at the polling stations as "chaotic at best."

CNN says its reporters saw some people voting twice.

And then there was this video, purporting to show several men arrested with boxes of “yes” ballots in their car. (Via YouTube / Обозреватель ТВ)

Voice of America sums up the apparent voting irregularities this way:Ballot papers in the referendum were also printed without security provisions, voter registration was patchy and there was confusion over what the vote was for.”

For their part, the organizers of the referendums maintain the voting was free and fair. As for what they plan to do next, it's a little unclear. They say they haven’t ruled out the possibility of secession or annexation by Russia, as in the case of Crimea.