Insurgent leader Denis Pushilin looks at journalists as he arrives for a news conference in Donetsk, Ukraine, with Donetsk republic signs in the background. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Slaviansk, Ukraine - The rebel mayor of the pro-Russian separatist Ukrainian city of Slaviansk said on Monday his eastern region needed Russian troops to provide stability and peace.

Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, speaking the day after an unofficial referendum that rebels say mustered 80 percent support for self-rule, described Ukrainian troops as occupiers.

“They should go ... We're going to defend our territory,” he said in his sandbagged administrative building in Slaviansk, the most heavily defended rebel city in the east.

Asked whether the self-declared “Donetsk People's Republic” needed Russian military help, he replied: “I support this. We need Russian troops to provide stability and a peaceful life in the region's future.”