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Monday, 3 November 2014

West slams leadership votes in east Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has not officially responded to the vote yet.

Pro-Russian separatists in the breakaway Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk went to the polls to choose leaders for their self-proclaimed republics, bringing the rebellion in the country's industrialized east to a climax in a move likely to exacerbate tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine crisis.

Alexander Zakharchenko, 38, a mining electrician-turned-rebel leader, on Monday won the election for leadership of the "Donetsk People's Republic (DPR)," the separatists' political and military stronghold in eastern Ukraine.


The Mir Luganshchine (Peace to Luhansk Region) movement, headed by Igor Plotnitsky, a former Soviet army officer, won the election in the "Luhansk People's Republic (LPR)," reported Russia's TASS news agency.

Ukraine's pro-Western president, Petro Poroshenko, denounced the vote on Sunday night as a "farce [conducted] under the barrels of tanks and machine guns." He said it violated a internationally brokered truce deal reached in the Belarussian capital, Minsk, which had also been signed by Russia on September 5.

Europe on Monday warned Russia to respect Ukraine's unity. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the elections went "against the letter and spirit" of the Minsk agreement.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert also said Monday that current developments in eastern Ukraine ruled out any premature lifting of EU economic sanctions against Russia and if the situation worsened, further sanctions may be necessary.

Earlier, EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini issued a statement slamming the polls as "a new obstacle on the path toward peace in Ukraine."

The angry European response raised the temperature in the West's dispute with Russia, which has repeatedly denied supporting separatists in east Ukraine.

The US has also advised Russia not to use the election results as an excuse for bringing troops into Ukraine, Mark Stroh, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, told TASS on Monday. "The United States will not recognize any results announced from this so-called 'election,'" Stroh added.

Despite tough statements from the West and the risk of additional sanctions, Russia backed the separatist elections after the voting results were released.

  • "We respect the will expression of the residents of [Ukraine's] southeast. The elected representatives have got the mandate for their practical efforts aimed at the restoration of normal life in the regions," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement Monday.
  • "We are ready to constructively promote the Ukrainian crisis settlement together with our international partners," said the statement.

Separatist leaders described the polls as a step toward formalizing their de facto independence from Ukraine after seven months of fighting in which the United Nations says more than 4,000 people have died.

  • However, Kiev will likely to continue attempts to resolve the rebellion by force following the elections, analysts believe.
  • "The Ukrainian army is still numerically superior. The party of war in Kiev is strong. Kiev will not recognize these elections and this means that shelling and provocations will continue until the resumption of armed actions," Sergey Mikheyev, director general of the Caspian Cooperation Institute in Russia, told TASS.

Moscow on Monday also went on to urge Kiev to cancel military operations in southeast Ukraine, Russian State Secretary and Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told TASS on Monday after the elections.

Karasin said that the elected representatives of the DPR and LPR "have enough powers to develop a stable dialogue with Kiev authorities."

"There is one more condition - the commitment to the Minsk agreements on September 5 and 19," he added, seemingly in response to wide denunciations from the West.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has not officially responded to the vote yet. His first word could come on Tuesday when he is due to appear at a Red Square ceremony in Moscow marking National Unity day.
http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/889870.shtml
3/11/14
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