Eastern Ukraine pro-Russian insurgents continued with plans to hold a vote on autonomy this weekend, despite a request from Russian President Vladimir Putin to delay the vote.
"Putin is seeking a way out of the situation. We are grateful to him for this," Denis Pushilin, co-chairman of the rebels, told The Associated Press
. "But we are just a bullhorn for the people. We just voice what the people want."
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Fox News said many saw Putin’s request that the vote be put off
as an attempt to pacify deteriorating relationships with the West.
The ballot question will be “Do you support the act of proclamation of independent sovereignty for the Donetsk People’s Republic?” but the organizers said they would determine whether they wanted independence, more autonomy, or annexation after the vote was taken.
Along with requesting a delayed vote, Putin also said Wednesday that he has pulled Russian troops away from the Ukrainian border. U.S. and NATO officials didn’t agree.
“I have very good vision but while we've noted Russia's statement so far we haven't seen any — any — indication of troops pulling back," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen tweeted.
In a second tweet, he said:
The AP said a poll by the Pew Research Center discovered that 70 percent of Ukraine’s residents in the east want the country to keep its borders, which could indicate a lot of “nays” for Sunday’s vote.
But some Ukrainian residents are concerned about voting and whether they can trust the process.
“We are remaining quiet, because we are simply afraid for our lives," Diana Dekatiryova, a university student, told the AP. "The thought I have is to stay away from the referendum, because nothing will depend on our vote anyway."
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