Eastern Ukraine Votes, Pro-Russian Separatists Claim Victory

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An armed pro-Russian activists stands guard as a woman casts her ballot for the referendum called by pro-Russian rebels to split from the rest of Ukraine, , on May 11, 2014 in Donetsk.
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On Sunday, pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine proceeded with a referendum on the future of the region, as the European Union warned that the vote would have no democratic legitimacy. Even Vladimir Putin called for a delay to no avail. 

The separatists, calling themselves the "People’s Republic of Donetsk," put this question to the people: "Do you support the act of proclamation of independent sovereignty for the Donetsk People's Republic?'' 

According to reports, about 90 percent of people supported regional autonomy, but those opposed to autonomy appeared to stay away from the polls. The West, along with Ukraine’s interim president Oleksandr V. Turchynov, dismissed the referendum and the results, calling them “a farce” with no legal standing. Moscow, meanwhile, says that it will respect "the will of the population."

Serhii Plokhy, author of the new book “The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union,” and professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard University, discusses the referendum in eastern Ukraine in historical context and what the vote means for the nation's uncertain future.