Give us recognition, Ukraine rebel voters demand



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14/11/02  Donetsk - The elections may already have been slammed as a farce by the West but those queuing to cast their ballots in east Ukraine s rebel polls insisted their voices should be heard. "I hope that our votes will change something. Perhaps we will finally be recognised as a real, independent country," Tatyana, 65, said as she waited at a polling station at school number 104 in insurgent stronghold Donetsk. At another voting station across the war-torn city music blared from loudspeakers and people tucked into cheap pies as they waited in the queue to elect the president and parliament members in this self-proclaimed rebel republic. Despite the occasional hint of normalcy, the vote here was anything but a regular election. Held as fighting rumbled across the conflict zone, the voting has driven a new wedge between Russia and the West, and threatened to plunge Ukraine into further chaos. People queue to vote outside polling station in small eastern Ukrainian town of Telmanove, Donetsk region on November 2, 2014 Kiev and much of the international community have decried the election as window-dressing aimed at legitimising the Russian-backed armed men who seized control of Ukraine s industrial heartland. Defying Western opinion, Moscow has already announced it will accept the result of the vote. For some of those voting, the poll was the only hope they felt they still had for their ravaged region and that from now on there could be no going back into the Ukrainian fold. "After the vote our leaders will be elected and they have to receive recognition by all foreign countries," said Olga, 47. "By Russia first of all but also by the others." - Follow Lenin and Stalin - Competition at the polls was not exactly fierce, since all the candidates were rebel leaders bent on breaking from Kiev s grip.

The clear favourite to win the top job here was Alexander Zakharchenko, 38, the current leader of the heavily-armed militants running the self-declared Donetsk People s Republic. "He is young, he is going to put an end to this war and fight against corruption," said retiree Nadezhda Yermochenko. Alexander Zakharchenko, Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Peoples Republic and presidential candidate casts his ballot during the vote in a polling station inDonetsk on November 2, 2014

"He has to follow the example of Lenin and Stalin who were honest and didn t steal," Yermochenko, 74, said. For many of the mainly elderly voters, though, the poll is not so much about backing the rebel leadership as rejecting the rule of Ukraine s pro-Western government, which they blame for the seven months of carnage that has claimed over 4,000 lives.