Ukraine's rebel leader sworn in

Kiev's pro-Western leaders fear that a new “frozen conflict” could now be created in its eastern regions.

Alexander Zakharchenko, current Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic leaves a voting booth during the elections in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic in Ukraine on 2 November 2014. Picture: EPA.

DONETSK - A pro-Russian separatist leader was sworn in on Tuesday as the head of a self-proclaimed 'people's republic' in eastern Ukraine in a ceremony that worsened a standoff with Russia.

Alexander Zakharchenko, who was elected in a rogue vote on Sunday that was denounced as a "farce" by Kiev and illegitimate by the West, took the oath to "honestly serve the interests of the people of the Donetsk People's Republic and conscientiously fulfill my duties."

Before the ceremony, which took place in a drama theatre in Donetsk, a big industrial city and the separatists' stronghold, another separatist figure, Andrei Purgin, said: "We are starting a history with this inauguration and what happens today will be repeated. We are laying down the traditions of the Republic."

Kiev's pro-Western leaders fear that a new "frozen conflict" could now be created in its eastern regions and further threaten the territorial unity of Ukraine, which lost control of its Crimean peninsula in March when it was annexed by Russia.

Sunday's vote, the climax of a six-month separatist rebellion in Ukraine's industrialised east, took place in defiance of Kiev's pro-Western authorities and was certain to worsen the standoff between Russia and the West over the future of the ex-Soviet republic.