Organizers of Sunday's independence referendum in Ukraine’s eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk say 89 percent of those who cast ballots voted in favor of seceding from Ukraine.
The results were announced just three hours after the polls closed and after reporters were told they would not be ready.
The separatists say 10 percent rejected independence and that turnout was 75 percent. The early results are impossible to independently verify as there were no international monitors present in Donetsk.
Some who voted for independence say they mistrust the central Ukrainian government and believe a unified Ukraine is impossible. Those who oppose secession say the whole election is illegal and did not bother to cast a ballot.
There is no information yet on results from Luhansk, the other eastern region that held an independence referendum Sunday.
The central Ukrainian government in Kyiv called the voting a "criminal farce," and the United States and its European allies denounced it as illegal.
It is still unclear whether so-called independence would mean more autonomy within Ukraine, an attempt to create an independent state, or a move to join Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had urged the separatists to postpone Sunday's voting. The United States says it is disappointed the Kremlin did not use more influence to persuade the separatists to put it off.