West urges Rus­sia to scrap sep­a­ratist elec­tions in Ukraine

The Irish Times - - World News - DANIEL McLAUGH­LIN

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.

‘Sham elec­tion’

“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

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