DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) - In an obscure government office guarded by a man in a red T-shirt armed only with a stick, two photocopy machines churned out ballots Thursday for eastern Ukraine's referendum on secession, as they have been doing around the clock for days.
In apparent defiance of a call by Russian President Vladimir Putin to put off the vote, insurgents in eastern Ukraine insisted Thursday they will go ahead with this weekend's referendum as planned.
"Putin is seeking a way out of the situation. We are grateful to him for this," said Denis Pushilin, co-chairman of the Donetsk People's Republic, as the pro-Russian rebels call themselves.
"But we are just a bullhorn for the people," he declared. "We just voice what the people want."
Ukraine has in recent weeks grown perilously polarized, with the west looking toward Europe and the east favoring closer ties with Russia. Thursday's pronouncement was likely to further inflame tensions between the interim government in Kiev that took power amid chaos in February and the armed insurgents, who have seized police stations and government buildings in more than a dozen cities in the east