Security forces and pro-Russian separatists clashed in eastern Ukraine on Monday, after an unauthorised referendum showed overwhelming support for independence from the pro-Western government in Kiev.

Separatists in Sloviansk targeted soldiers and the television tower with grenades, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Facebook. No injuries were reported.

Sunday’s vote in the self—proclaimed “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Lugansk was organised by the separatists despite international condemnation and a call from Russian President Vladimir Putin for a postponement.

The separatists said voter turnout exceeded 80 per cent, with a “yes” vote of nearly 96 per cent in Lugansk and 90 per cent in Donetsk.

Eastern Ukraine’s pro-independence leaders said the next step would be to build government and military structures for a “New Russia” in the region.

The Ukrainian government, the European Union and United States do not recognise the vote. Washington criticized Russia for not using its influence to stop the vote. Mr. Putin meanwhile said he would study the results before commenting.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels are to discuss tougher sanctions on Russia over Ukraine. They are also expected to look at whether to proceed with an EU mission to support Ukraine.

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