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Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


On Thursday, May 11th, the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics celebrated the third anniversary since the date of holding a referendum on self-determination.

On May 11th, 2014, most residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine chose State independence. The vote took place against the background of the unfolding military operation of Kiev against the residents of Donbass. On the ballot paper in the referendum there was only one question: do you support the act of State independence, respectively, of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics? In the DPR, of the 2.5 million who voted 89.7% answered the posed question in the positive. In the LPR, where 1.6 million people participated in the referendum, 96.2% voted in favour.

On the occasion of the third anniversary of the referendum today in the DPR was a day off, where festivities took place. Today the head of the DPR Aleksandr Zakharchenko met the official delegations of friendly countries, which arrived in Donetsk to participate in the celebration of the Day of the Republic. Among the guests of honor were the President of the Republic South Ossetia Anatoly Bibilov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Abkhazia Daur Kove, the deputy chairman of People’s Council of LPR Vladislav Deynego, members of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation – Olga Kovitidi, Sergey Tsekov and Sergey Mamedov, and also Deputies of the State Duma Kazbek Taysayev and Andrey Kozenko. The head of the DPR met each of them personally. The arrival of the guests of honor was followed by the performance of national anthems by the brass band of the Donetsk musical college of Sergey Prokofiev. Zakharchenko congratulated residents of the State on the Day of the Republic, noting the considerable progress in public, political, and economic building.

In the LPR festive actions will take place on Friday, May 12th.

The celebrations take place against the background of non-stop shelling by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Tens of strikes are recorded per day. Several houses and a power line are damaged.

Comment of Oleg Tsarev:

May 11th is now one of the most significant days in the history of all our Russian Fatherland. The inhabitants of Donbass were initiators of a referendum on the self-determination of the People’s Republics. It was as if the idea was floating the air. People chanted at meetings “Referendum! Referendum!” And me, in return, tried to put this process in order. When I saw that in Donetsk everything is good, preparation for the referendum goes normally, according to the plan, I had to go to Lugansk because it was important not to allow that questions on referenda were different in the two Republics. I arrived in Lugansk, and gathered activists: mayors of the cities and Deputies. We held a meeting, wrote together with the people’s governor of the Lugansk region Valery Dmitriyevich Bolotov the questions for the ballot paper. I joined up with my Lugansk friend- politicians, and the referendum was held literally with minimum means and in very short terms. I remember the calculations for the budget of the plebiscite. If it was carried out by Russia or Ukraine in the framework of the usual electoral process, it would’ve cost millions of dollars. While at the time I paid for paper and the printing of ballot papers in the printing house. And there was a few overhead costs: for example, gasoline… Selfless people came to the referendum like for work that was the most important in their life, and did everything independently. Such was the enthusiasm. Of course, it didn’t pass without excesses. Ukrainian radicals were disruptive, there were regions where they blocked the holding of a referendum. But it passed both in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in much bigger territories than those that are now under the control of the DPR and LPR.

The day of May 11th, 2014, differs from all other people’s expression of will that I have ever faced by its very high enthusiasm, and the emotional lift of people. Voters came here as if it was a holiday. Veterans – with awards. People sang, danced at polling precincts. At that time many had the feeling that now we will hold a referendum – and that’s all, we will have the same situation like in Crimea, and we will be together with Russia. Unfortunately, not everything turned out as voters had expected.

But, nevertheless, the value of this referendum mustn’t be underestimated. I recall that a month before this, war started in Donbass: Turchynov announced the anti-terrorist operation. Voting indeed took place under barrels and even under jet strafing. The Kremlin, probably, hoped at that time to come to an agreement with Kiev and didn’t support the referendum. And, nevertheless, the will of the people after all overcame negative winds both from the East, and from the West. What concerns the Russian Federation – de facto results of the referendum are recognized (de jure, of course, no). Honest plebiscite with unconditional results influenced the fact that the DPR and LPR more and more drift towards Russia from fascist Ukraine. And in this sense it is possible to recognize the referendum’s results unambiguously positively. Looking back, I continue to affirm that the decision on holding a referendum was correct. The people of Donbass wouldn’t understand us – those who were at the head of the process at that moment – if we started to avoid holding a referendum. This is the first. And the second. Yes, three years passed, and we continue to walk on the spot concerning a solution of the problem of Donbass. But if there was no referendum, there wouldn’t even be a subject for conversation. Neither negotiations in Minsk, nor various meetings in Normandy and other formats. There was a referendum – and this gave the possibility to the Russian Federation and to politicians of Donbass to rely on the will of the people. This was a turning point. I think that we did everything correctly, when we pushed and pressed on and held a referendum.

Many say that the Donetsk and Lugansk referenda are not so legitimate as the Crimean one. I want to sound facts that not many people know about – how good the support among Deputies and politicians of Lugansk and Donetsk was. The presidium of the Lugansk Regional Council voted for the calling of a referendum. Also, it is necessary to pay tribute to the Chairman of the Regional Council Valery Nikolaevich Golenko, who took responsibility – without any “polite people”, without any help from the outside, nobody even guaranteed him his personal security. So, the presidium of the Lugansk Regional Council voted for the calling of a referendum and then voted for the recognition of the results of the referendum. So as far as Lugansk is concerned – the absolutely full legitimacy is evident. And even in some moments, as I know, it was done more correctly and nicely than in Crimea.

Sometimes an event remains in the memory especially brightly. Perhaps, like a dazzling snapshot in the memory. In my mind when I think about the referendum on May 11th, the images of veterans of the Great Patriotic War appear. I remember how I was welcomed by veterans in the entrance when I approached the polling precinct. Veterans with awards, in festive clothes… Today is the birthday of my son, and the impressions from his birth and the referendum of 2014 coincided. And something else: only two days separate May 11th and May 9th. When we organized a referendum, we didn’t think that the day of the referendum will merge in the conscious of people with the Day of Victory over fascism. We didn’t link the day of self-determination of Donbass to any dates. Events developed so promptly that it was impossible to either stop or accelerate them. It was only possible to remain on the crest of those events. The expectations of people were so high that it was impossible to delay things. The preparatory work was so complex that it was simply technically impossible to hold a referendum earlier. I know that many Russian politicians didn’t believe that we, without any help or serious injections, will be able to hold a referendum. The fact that we were able to do it, and that people came in a huge majority, really voted for the Russian world – for Russia was a revelation.

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