A total 89 per cent of voters cast ballots in favour of self-rule in the Donetsk province, one of two regions holding "referendums", according to the insurgents' self-styled electoral commission. (Agencies)
Ten percent voted against, and turnout was 75 percent, the commission's chief, Roman Lyagin, told a news conference in the provincial hub of Donetsk.
"These can be considered the final results," he said, less than two hours after polls closed.
There was no immediate word of results from Lugansk, the other province holding a similar referendum. But the vote for independence there was expected to be similar to Donetsk's, or even exceed it.
The two regions are home to seven million people, out of Ukraine's total population of 46 million.
The West feared these disputed votes could hasten the break-up of the former Soviet Republic and lead to a civil war on Europe's eastern edge.
Tension over Ukraine has pushed East-West relations to lows not seen since the end of the Cold War.
There was no way to independently verify the vote results. The rebels had prevented foreign media from observing ballot counting, and voting had taken place with no neutral monitors, incomplete electoral rolls, and a haphazard registration procedure that did nothing to prevent multiple voting.
But just before the announced figures, the rebel leader in Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, gave an interview to reporters boasting that the results would "create the first people's government".
"This is what we fought for, for the majority to decide the destiny of the region and we achieved that goal," he said.
The referendums took place under tension in east Ukraine, where troops are waging an ongoing offensive against pro-Moscow gunmen.
Isolated violence flared in some towns. A freelance photographer working saw a gunman in a group of pro-Kiev militants fire into a crowd of pro-Russian activists in the town of Krasnoarmiysk, badly wounding at least two.
A total 89 per cent of voters cast ballots in favour of self-rule in the Donetsk province, one of two regions holding "referendums", according to the insurgents' self-styled electoral commission.