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2 Ukraine regions vote on sovereignty

Mariupol - Residents of two restive regions in eastern Ukraine engulfed by a pro-Russian insurgency are casting ballots in contentious and hastily organised independence referendums.

Sunday's ballots seek approval for declaring so-called sovereign people's republics in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where rebels have seized government buildings and clashed with police and Ukrainian troops.

People demonstrate Ukrainian passports as they stand in a line to enter a polling station and take part in the referendum on the status of Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Moscow May 11, 2014. Rebels pressed ahead with a referendum on self-rule in east Ukraine on Sunday and fighting flared anew in a conflict that has raised fears of civil war and pitched Russia and the West into their worst crisis since the Cold War. Credit: Reuters

Polling stations opened at 8 a.m. (07:00 SA time) and were due to close at 10 p.m. (21:00 SA time).

Referendum organisers have said they expect a high turnout.

Ukraine's authorities and the West have rejected the referendums as illegal.

Ukraine's interim president has said that independence for eastern regions will destroy the country's economy. - Sapa-AP

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