Pro-Russian separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko votes as polls open, in an election that Western powers have denounced as illegitimate. Yiming Woo reports.
Eastern Ukraine's separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko casts his ballot in an election he's almost certain to win. Pro-Russian rebels say the vote will legitimise its leadership and take their war-torn region closer to Russia. But Western powers say they won't recognise it. Kiev's pro-European government insists the election violates the ceasefire protocol between the rebels and Ukrainian troops. Zakharchenko says the vote will go ahead. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) PRIME MINISTER OF SELF-PROCLAIMED 'DONETSK PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC, ALEXANDER ZAKHARCHENKO, SAYING: "Of course it's understandable that we're going to have to talk with Kiev, but we aren't planning for that in the near future. Today, we're going to have the election, and we'll see Kiev's reaction and start from there." Kiev says the agreement, signed by both sides in September, states that the Ukrainian government will appoint local officials to the region. Sunday's election is likely to worsen tensions in a conflict that's killed nearly 4,000 people in fighting since April.