(QHA) -

Pro-Russian separatists voted unanimously on Thursday in favour of holding a referendum on independence, defying calls by Russian President Vladimir Putin to postpone the vote to open the way for talks with the Kiev authorities, World Bulletin reports.

"We have just voted in the People's Council ... The date of the referendum was endorsed by 100 percent. The referendum will take place on May 11," rebel leader Denis Pushilin told reporters.

"There are millions of people who want to cast their votes. Even if we had voted against holding the referendum, it would have happened anyway. Civil war has already begun. The referendum can put a stop to it and start a political process."

The referendum will take place in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Kiev has rejected the referendum as illegitimate, as it does not meet Ukrainian Constitution.

QHA