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Pro-Moscow rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine called Monday for their region to become part of Russia, the day after staging a referendum on self-rule, but Moscow stopped short of endorsing their bid for annexation.Donetsk and Luhansk together are home to 6.5 million people and produce around a third of Ukraine's industrial output, creating the biggest new self-proclaimed independent states in Europe since the breakups of Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union itself over 20 years ago.Unlike in Crimea, Moscow has stopped short of recognizing the two regions as independent from Kiev and has said nothing to suggest it would endorse their absorption into Russia.Donetsk and Luhansk produce more than 15 percent of Ukraine's GDP, including around a third of its industrial output from the giant steel smelters and other heavy industry of the Donbass, one of Europe's most productive coal producing regions. If they slip out of Kiev's control without being formally absorbed by Moscow, they would become by far the biggest and most economically important of the self-proclaimed independent statelets Russia protects in other parts of the ex-Soviet Union.
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