Sunday, eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts went to the polls to answer the question “do you support the People’s Republic of Donetsk?” They answered yes, now they need to figure out what that means.
The wording of the referendum was deliberately vague because the protest movement has a lot of different people with a lot of different agendas. Now that the movement in general has a formal imprimatur from the public, their ultimate goal becomes much more important.
That could well mean a second referendum, asking if the voters support seeking accession into the Russian Federation, as voters in Crimea did earlier this year. Some protest leaders saw that as the whole point of yesterday’s vote, and want annexation.
But that’s just one possibility. Many protesters saw the whole point of the People’s Republic of Donetsk to be something akin to the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, establishing autonomy within the current nation.
Still others are suggesting that instead of staying in Ukraine or joining Russia, the region could go it alone, establishing themselves as an independent Novorossiya that may or may not ever seek unity with Russia itself.
Figuring out where Donetsk is headed is all the more difficult because all of this is occurring amid a military invasion by the interim government, which is promising to not only reconquer the area, but “liquidate” the protest movement outright. The situation, if anything, is less resolved than ever.