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Ukraine's rebel polls divide West and Russia

November 3, 2014

Germany has criticized Moscow for recognizing the results of the elections in rebel-held eastern Ukraine. Russia has said the polls amount to a "mandate" for the separatist leaders to negotiate with Kyiv.

Ostukraine Wahlen Donezk 02.11.2014
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Mikhail Pochuyev

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman told reporters at a news conference in Berlin on Monday that Sunday's elections in rebel-held eastern Ukraine were "illegitimate," as they contravened the country's constitution and the Minsk ceasefire signed in September.

Steffen Seibert also said the manner in which the polls in the rebel-declared Donetsk People's Republic and the nearby self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic were conducted were "extremely questionable."

"It is all the more incomprehensible that there are official Russian voices that are respecting or even recognizing these so-called elections," Seibert said.

He added that under these circumstances there could be no thought of easing EU sanctions on Russia, and that if the situation in eastern Ukraine deteriorated further measures may be needed.

Shortly after the polls closed on Sunday, the European Union's new foreign policy coordinator also rejected to the elections, saying they would only complicate efforts to bring peace to the war-torn region.

"I consider today's 'presidential and parliamentary' elections in Donetsk and Luhansk 'People's Republics' a new obstacle on the path towards peace in Ukraine. The vote is illegal and illegitimate, and the European Union will not recognize it," read a statement released by the office of Federica Mogherini.

A 'mandate' to negotiate

Both the rebels and Moscow, though, continued to insist that Sunday's polls were a legitimate expression of the will of the people of eastern Ukraine.

"The elected representatives of Donetsk and Luhansk regions obtained a mandate to hold negotiations with central Ukrainian authorities to solve problems ... via a political dialogue," Russia's deputy foreign minister, Grigory Karasin, told the Interfax news agency.

The outcomes of Sunday's elections came as no surprise, with the favorites winning easily.

Interfax cited local elections officials who said that Alexander Zakharchenko won with almost 79 percent of the votes cast in Donetsk, while Igor Plotnitsky took 64 percent in Luhansk.

Elections held in the rest of Ukraine late last month produced a pro-Western parliament, and President Petro Poroshenko announced late last week that his party would back the incumbent prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk to lead the next government in Kyiv.

pfd/mkg (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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