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Lawmakers blame unrest on Ukraine leaders

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By The Associated Press
Saturday, May 17, 2014, 9:18 p.m.

KIEV, Ukraine — Lawmakers and officials from eastern Ukraine on Saturday poured criticism on the fledging central government, accusing it of ignoring legitimate grievances of the regions which have been overrun by pro-Russia militia fighting for independence.

An eastern leader said last weekend's unofficial referendum in favor of independence “expressed the will of the people.”

The criticism occurred in the second round of European-brokered talks intended to resolve the country's worst crisis since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Ukraine's caretaker government came to power in February following the ouster of Kremlin-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych after months of protests in Kiev. Moscow and many in Ukraine's east have accused the new government of intending to trample the rights of eastern Ukraine's Russian-speakers.

Politicians from the east implored the government to believe that — apart from the pro-Russia gunmen — a large sector of the population had lost hope in the interim administration in Kiev.

Separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions held hastily arranged referenda last weekend and declared independence following the vote, which went in favor of sovereignty.

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