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Ukraine province yearns for Scots heritage

A campaign has been launched in Ukraine's most easterly province for reunification with its "motherland" - Scotland.

Caught in a global headline-grabbing tug-of-war between Moscow and Kiev, there are those in Luhansk who want a Scottish-style vote to settle their geopolitical future.

But there are also those, their tongues firmly in their cheeks, who say they only want a vote if they can become a devolved region of Scotland under the British Crown. Their suggestion - a clear sign of how much Scotland's independence referendum is being used for propaganda purposes in the Ukrainian crisis - has at least some historic basis.

Luhansk, or Lugansk as it is known by its majority Russian-speaking population, was, in fact, established by Scots.

"Brother Scots!" declares the "Luhansk is Scotland" campaign. "The time has come to blow the pipes and come out in favour of re-union with the motherland. God Save the Queen."

A humorous manifesto, published by local newspaper V Gorode, sets out the case. "We all know that Luhansk and the Luhansk region owe their existence to the Scottish engineer Charles Gascoigne," it says.

"It was he who explored our seams of coal and ore and who laid the foundations for our glorious industrial land. The industrious nature of Scottish families formed the basis of the hardworking character of modern Luhansk people.

"Russians and Ukrainians have cheated us for years, trying to get us to forget out Scottish roots. But we remember that Luhansk is a true Scottish city."

The language, of course, mocks some of the rhetoric across Ukraine as its central government collapsed this spring. Russian-language media refers to the near revolt of Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine, including Crimea, as the "Russian Spring".

V Gorode referred to calls for Luhansk to join Scotland as a reflection of a "British Spring". The links, after all, between eastern Ukraine and Britain are huge.

Charles Cascoigne - known locally as Karl Karlovich Gaskoin - founded Luhansk in 1795 and ran it, as a factory settlement, till 1806. His statue still stands in the city's centre.

A shareholder of the famous Carron works in Falkirk, Gascoigne was one of a huge number of Scots entrepreneurs, engineers and other experts who served the then Russian empire in the 18th century.

Many came from the Falkirk area. In Luhansk, they lived in a special colony on the new town's main drag, called "English Street".

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