DONETSK, Ukraine - The governor of east Ukraine’s Donetsk region scoffed Tuesday at last weekend's independent referendum, saying the breakaway republic declared by pro-Russian separatists "does not exist."
"If you're talking about the Donetsk People's Republic, there is no such thing,” Sergei Taruta, the Kiev-appointed governor told reporters. “In all kind of ways. Not in a political, or a legal way."
Separatists in Donetsk announced Monday they had formed a sovereign state, and asked for Russia to consider annexing it.
Taruta's remarks came during an afternoon press conference at a downtown Donetsk hotel.
He insisted that presidential elections slated for May 25 would go head, but he called for a national referendum in June on handing more power to Ukraine's regional governments.
"The Donetsk region is not capable of being on its own for more than two weeks," Taruta said, after being asked about the economic feasibility of independence from Kiev. "No one wants to invest in a region with an unclear future."
“Just imagine for a second that the Donetsk region would be independent. Straight away there would be sanctions from the E.U., like in Crimea. And it would mean that no one could bring things here, and we couldn't export from here. And all investments would be stopped immediately.”
Taruta, a prominent businessman, was installed as governor of the Donetsk region by the Kiev government in March. His appointment came after the emergence of a pro-Russian movement following the February revolution that toppled Ukraine's Moscow-backed president, Viktor Yanukovich.