West urges Russia to scrap separatist elections in Ukraine
Western governments have urged Russia to cancel tomorrow’s planned elections in parts of eastern Ukraine under its de-facto control, warning that they will further undermine already ineffective efforts to bring peace to the region.
Areas of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces run by Moscow-led separatists intend to choose local leaders and deputies, in what Ukraine’s government and its EU and US allies call sham elections approved by Russia.
The vote comes some 10 weeks after the assassination of Alexander Zakharchenko, erstwhile chief of the Donetskbased separatists, and during the fifth year of a war between Ukraine’s army and Russian and militia troops, which has killed more than 10,300 people and displaced 1.6 million.
“Russia could and should cancel the sham November 11th ‘elections’. It’s a charade since the Kremlin has already anointed leaders to serve as its proxies,” in the so-called people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk (DNR and LNR), said the US embassy in Kiev.
“While Ukraine takes positive steps to promote peace, Russia is stoking conflict by staging sham ‘elections’. Residents of eastern Ukraine should boycott these ‘elections’, which are not in line with either the Minsk agreements or Ukrainian law.”
In early 2015, Kiev and Moscow signed a deal in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, which laid out steps to peace in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
Few of the measures have been implemented, however, and shelling and skirmishes continue almost every night in the region, killing and injuring fighters and civilians and cutting off Ukraine from its main industrial and mining areas.
The EU has also denounced the planned vote, and in a recent joint statement Germany, France, Britain, Poland, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium said the ballot would violate the Minsk agreements and Ukrainian law.
“We urge the separatists to abandon the plans for ‘elections’ and call on Russia to bring its considerable influence to bear,” they said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov defended plans for the ballots, and said who would lead DNR and LNR was “extremely important” for Russia.
“Moscow undoubtedly has influence on the leadership of these republics, but it is not unlimited,” he added.
The US treasury department on Thursday unveiled new sanctions on individuals, firms and organisations it says have taken part in Russia’s annexation of Crimea and establishment of control in eastern Ukraine.
Officials in Kiev urged people not to vote and warned that anyone who helped arrange or conduct elections would face prosecution.
Leonid Pasechnik of the separatist Luhansk People’s Republic