Amid the big news of the secessionist referendum in Donetsk and Luhansk, a second plebiscite, less noticed, asked voters in 14 districts whether they would prefer not to secede from those provinces, to remain part of Ukraine and under the rule of Kyiv.
A campaign group called Peace, Order and Unity organized balloting in six districts of Donetsk, and eight of Luhansk whether they wished to secede from those provinces and join the province of Dnipropetrovsk, immediately to the west of Donetsk, according to the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN. The campaign distributed flyers, shown in other local news media, encouraging a ‘yes’ vote.
In the battle over eastern Ukraine, Dnipropetrovsk has remained firmly supportive of the government in Kyiv, not least because of the influence of that province’s governor, Ihor Kolomoisky, a billionaire oligarch who is one of Ukraine’s wealthiest men. Kolomoisky owns one of Ukraine’s biggest companies, Privat Group, which owns steel, chemical and energy firms as well as PrivatBank, one of Ukraine’s biggest banks. Amid the turmoil leading up to Sunday’s voting, Kolomoisky’s deputy governor, Boris Filatov, announced at a press conference that Dnepropetrovsk would gladly accept any territories to the east that might opt to stay with Ukraine rather than joining the secessionist campaign for a separate, pro-Russian Donetsk republic.
No immediate word on the results of the counter-referendum.
Irena Chalupa covers Ukraine and Eastern Europe for the Atlantic Council.