12 May 2014

Ukraine rebels: ‘We are now in civil war with Kiev’

Maybe nature was merely welcoming what some here will see as the newest capital city in the world, with a spring-clean.

Apocalyptic rain soaked Donetsk from dawn on Monday as people awoke wondering quite what has actually dawned here.

This afternoon it will duly be announced by referendum organisers that by a vast majority the people of two eastern provinces of Ukraine have voted to no longer be part of Kiev.

How rigged? How criminal as Kiev calls the poll? All such questions won’t change things and are academic. It is how the powers of Donetsk use the result, the mandate as they will see it.

Read more: Eastern Ukraine: the DIY referendum

Former security guard and sweet salesman, now the leading face of the “people’s Republic of Donetsk”, 32 year old Denis Pushilin gave a pretty straight indication of what happens now to me this morning: “Yes – we are now in a state of civil war with Kiev.”

Ten floors up in the stinking, barricaded former Kiev-run government building, the sense of immediate siege mentality is obvious in a place plastered with “no to fascism” posters and an openly racist depictions of Barack Obama as a monkey.

He adds that the only mediators in all this can be Moscow with who. He wants to see open borders. It smacks of Eastern Union as opposed to European Union.

The question is what the leaders in Donetsk will now do with the mandate they believe they have from Sunday’s rather shambolic home-made referendum.

Read more: in Eastern Ukraine, a referendum… but not as we know it

However the west denigrates it, there is no doubting it was a sizeable and significant protest message at the very least.

Autonomy? Independence? Assimilation into Russia? No option is clearly decided and right now it seems none will be for some time.

The call for Russia to mediate hangs in the humid air here today but of real talks and real mediation, there is precious little sign.

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