Ukraine rebels begin controversial election

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine began voting Sunday in controversial elections that Kyiv and the West say they will not recognize.

The separatists who control parts of eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions are holding elections for leadership and legislative bodies in the areas they control.

The European Union and United States have called the rebel vote illegal, saying it violates Ukraine’s constitution and the cease-fire agreement reached September 5 between separatists and Ukraine’s government.

Russia has said it will recognize the results of the separatist elections.  EU leaders have urged Russia to ignore the results of the elections.

Western officials say the vote could further complicate efforts to end the crisis in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Moscow rebels want to join Russia.

The United Nations says more than 4,000 people have died in the fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russia rebels.