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Orthodox priest shot dead in east Ukraine

16 May 2014

REUTERS

Flag-waving: people attend a rally on Tuesday to mark the results of a referendum on the status of the Luhansk region, held on Sunday

Flag-waving: people attend a rally on Tuesday to mark the results of a referendum on the status of the Luhansk region, held on Sunday

A PRIEST of the official Ukraine Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) was killed last week after urging separatists to lay down their arms, the Ukrainian state news agency Interfax has said.

The priest, Fr Pavlo Zhuchenko, was shot eight times from an automatic weapon near a checkpoint in the Donetsk region last Thursday, the agency says. An investigation is under way, but the Prosecutor General's Office in Ukraine has already said that "terrorists being co-ordinated by an outside aggressor" were responsible for the killing.

On Sunday, residents of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions voted in favour of independence in unofficial referendums. There was a 70-per-cent turnout in Donetsk, where 90 per cent voted in favour; and a 75-per-cent turnout in Luhansk, where 96 per cent voted in favour.

Within two hours of the results' being announced, separatist leaders in Donetsk announced that they were applying to join the Russian Federation.

"A constant barrage of propaganda by the Russian media, and a steadily mounting death-toll, are contributing to an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty, and division," the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, told MPs this week.

"So-called pro-Russian separatists, led by people who by their training, equipment, and behaviour give every appearance of sometimes being Russian special forces, have continued to seize and occupy government buildings in the south and east of Ukraine, using many of the same tactics that were deployed in Crimea. We have seen intimidation of journalists, abductions and murders.

"The polls were marked by blatant fraud, including multiple voting, no proper voting lists, and threats and intimidation against Ukrainians standing up for the unity of the country. These referendums . . . have no credibility whatsoever.

"We will not recognise these, or any other attempts to undermine the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea."

A presidential election is due to take place in Ukraine on 25 May to elect a successor to Viktor Yanukovych who fled to Russia after the Maidan massacre (News, 17 April).

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