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Ükraine Alexander Zakharchenko und Roman Lyagin
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Ukraine rebel leader sworn in

November 4, 2014

The leader of a group of separatists in eastern Ukraine has been sworn in as the head of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic. The UN has called the region's election "unfortunate and counterproductive."

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Alexander Zakharchenko (pictured left) took an oath of office as the leader of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic on Tuesday in a heavily guarded theater in the separatist eastern Ukraine region.

It comes after a vote - in which Zakharchenko faced no serious competition - that has drawn condemnation from the European Union, United States, Ukrainian government in Kyiv, and United Nations.

"The quote-unquote elections in the eastern part of the country this past Sunday are an unfortunate and counterproductive development," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's headquarters in Vienna. "I urge all parties concerned to urgently recommit to the letter and spirit of the Minsk protocol and memorandum."

The Minsk protocol refers to a ceasefire agreement reached in September between the pro-Russian separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine and the government in Kyiv.

Poroshenko talks tough

On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is scheduled to meet with his top security chiefs in Kyiv to discuss the implications of the vote. He called the elections a "flagrant violation" of the ceasefire deal brokered in Minsk, which had promised increased autonomy for the breakaway regions. Two of the 12 points in the Minsk protocol address the issue of "early local elections" in the conflict-ridden regions, but only "in accordance with the law of Ukraine."

In addition to Zakharchenko in Donetsk, Igor Plotnitsky in Luhansk won a landslide majority, according to official results. Zakharchenko claimed roughly three-quarters of the votes, Plotnitsky almost two-thirds.

Officials in Moscow had welcomed the results earlier on Monday, saying that the vote paved the way for eastern Ukrainian leaders to negotiate with the new government in Kyiv, elected earlier in October. However, the statement stopped short of formal recognition.

"The elected representatives received a mandate to solve practical issues to restore normal life in the regions," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, albeit also stressing that it considered Donetsk and Luhansk to remain parts of Ukraine.

mz/mkg (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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