Ukraine referendum
Members of a local election commission empty a ballot box as they start counting votes of the referendum on the status of Donetsk region in Donetsk Reuters

With pro-Russian leaders in Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine claiming victory in a self-rule referendum and the calls for accession to Moscow rising, attention has turned to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin, which earlier said Putin would express his opinion only after the formal results were out, is expected to issue its official reaction to the referendums, which have been denounced as illegal by both the western powers and the federal Ukraine.

"Vladimir Putin will formulate his attitude to the referendum on the status of Donetsk and Luhansk regions," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told Russian daily Kommersant.

The Kremlin had remained tight-lipped on the day of the referendum.

The separatists said a vast majority of people in both the eastern Ukrainian regions voted for secession from Kiev.

In Donetsk, about 89% of those who voted were in favour of declaring "Donetsk People's Republic" while in a Luhansk, nearly 96% chose self-rule.

No independent monitoring systems were in place to regulate the referendums and the veracity of the results has been widely questioned.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carld Bildt wrote on his twitter account: "Figures from fake referendums in eastern Ukraine likely to be fake. No way of even knowing official turnout."

Meanwhile, in a striking resemblance to the events that took place in Crimea, calls from pro-Russian separatists for the eastern regions' accession with Russia have gained momentum after the referendums.

"Russia is our brother, and there is full cooperation with Russia, including on accession to the Customs Union. If necessary, we can hold any elections, any referendum in three days," said self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk Viacheslav Ponomariov, according to local reports.