The Ukraininian government has described Sunday's referendum held in the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, as a "step towards the abyss". 

Some see it as a vote to endorse the region's autonomy within Ukraine. Some consider it a move towards independence. Others still, view it as a nod towards annexation by Russia. Other western countries, the US in particular, have voiced similar condemnation. Washington said it is disappointed that the Russian government has not used its influence to forestall the referendum.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called on separatists in eastern Ukraine to postpone the referendum. He also said Russian troops pulled back from the border with Ukraine.

But how is Sunday's referendum different from the one held in Crimea in March? And why is Moscow distancing itself from the vote this time around?

Presenter: Sami Zeidan


Mychailo Wynnychyj, associate professor at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.

Lilit Gevorgyan, Russia analyst at IHS Global and senior economist for CIS Europe. 

Alexander Shumilin, a political analyst and columnist for the Moscow Times. 

Source: Al Jazeera