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Ukraine’s Separatist Luhansk Region Eyes Joining Russia

The breakaway Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine may hold a referendum soon on joining Russia, a separatist leader said on Sunday.

“I think that in the near future a referendum will be held on the territory of the Luhansk People’s Republic,” Leonid Pasechnik, the head of self-proclaimed region, told reporters in Luhansk.

“The people will exercise their absolute constitutional right and express their opinion on joining the Russian Federation. For some reason, I am sure that this is exactly how it will be,” he added.

The idea, however, was met coolly in the State Duma, the lower house of Russian parliament.

Leonid Kalashnikov, the head of the committee on the Commonwealth of Independent States said that the time is not right for such a move.

“I think now is not the right time for this. And it is hardly necessary to consider such questions now,” he said.

On Feb. 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced “a special military operation,” with claims to be protecting Donbas from “genocide,” citing Ukraine’s unwillingness to implement the Minsk Agreement on the peace settlement for eight years. It, however, quickly spread to the rest of the country.

Defying threats of sanctions by the West, Moscow officially recognized the enclaves of Donetsk and Luhansk in Donbas, eastern Ukraine as independent states before launching a war on Ukraine.

The war has met international outrage with the EU, US and UK, among others, implementing tough financial sanctions on Moscow.

At least 1,104 civilians have been killed in Ukraine and 1,754 injured, according to UN estimates, with the true figure feared to be far higher.

More than 3.8 million Ukrainians have also fled to neighboring countries, with millions more displaced inside the country, according to the UN refugee agency.