MOSCOW, May 12 (RAPSI) – Donetsk region has claimed independence from Ukraine upon the outcome of the secession referendum which had been held Sunday, Denis Pushilin, chairman of Donetsk's temporary government, told journalists Monday.

Pushilin read out the so-called appeal of the Donetsk People’s Republic which declared its sovereignty and contained the request to join Russia.

The vote on Sunday was organized by Ukrainian pro-federalization activists amid the continuing special operation by the Kiev authorities to crack down on the protesters using military force.

At least 50 people have died and 245 have been injured in the region since the beginning of a standoff between separatists and Kiev on March 13, according to Ukrainian officials.

The Kremlin said in a statement Monday that it respected the will of the people in Ukraine’s southeast and urged Kiev to do the same. The Kremlin said it condemned “the use of force including military hardware against peaceful citizens which led to deaths”.

Donetsk was one of two Ukrainian regions which held referendums on independence. The Luhansk People’s Republic is also seeking sovereignty. Vasily Nikitin, a spokesman for the separatists in Luhansk, said that the republic may campaign for international recognition at the United Nations after the referendum is held.

Crimean peninsula was the first one to move to independence from Ukraine by having refused to recognize as legitimate its new government that came to power following the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovich in February. A referendum saw voters overwhelmingly support secession from Ukraine and reunification with Russia. As a result, President Vladimir Putin on March 21 signed the bills on accession of Crimea with Russian Federation into laws.