By Rebecca Shabad - 05/12/14 07:26 AM EDT
Despite referendum votes in eastern Ukraine on Sunday showing overwhelming support for self-rule, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) says the referenda demonstrated the weakness of pro-Russian separatists.
“Today's referendum in the separatist-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine is not only illegal, but a recognition of separatist weakness. Even with strong support from Moscow, the separatists have not been able to seize large areas or rally the population to their agenda,” Royce said in a statement on Sunday.
Nearly 90 percent of people in the main eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk voted in favor of a referendum held Sunday to break away from Kiev, according to The Associated Press.
Luhansk, another region in eastern Ukraine, held a similar referendum, which was supported by more than 96 percent of voters, too.
Royce, however, said opinion polls show only a small minority favors annexation by Russia. The United States did not recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March as legal, either.
The Kremlin said Monday it respects the votes to secede and hopes for a “civilized implementation” of the results, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Ukraine’s interim president, Oleksandr Turchynov, dismissed the weekend votes on Monday, calling them a “propaganda farce.”
Kiev’s government is expected to hold its next presidential election on May 25.