Russia-backed separatists pressed on Tuesday with the building of their envisioned new state wrested from Ukrainian territory with the inauguration of a gunman purportedly elected prime minister of the proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk.

Alexander Zakharchenko won the dubious election held Sunday with more than 70% of the vote, according to the breakaway region’s election committee, which operated without a voter registry, conducted polling in the presence of armed fighters and carried ballot boxes to villagers who were reluctant to brave artillery fire to vote.

The elections for government leaders and local assemblies for the Donetsk and Luhansk regions were widely condemned as illegal and a threat to an all-but-dead cease-fire that has tamped down some of the fighting in eastern Ukraine. In the two months since the Sept. 5 truce was signed by Russia, Ukraine and the separatists, at least 400 people have died, bringing the death toll from the conflict to at least 4,000 since April.

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