Oct 29, 2014 4:43 PM
Russia defends rebel vote in eastern Ukraine
The Associated Press
MOSCOW (AP) Russia on Wednesday angrily dismissed the EU's warning that it wouldn't recognize local elections organized by pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine, saying that the rejection of the vote could derail a fragile cease-fire deal.
Moscow has pledged to recognize the vote set for this Sunday, but Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has warned that the elections would violate a cease-fire agreement reached in Minsk last month.
The EU also warned Wednesday that it wouldn't recognize the vote, which "would run counter to the letter and the spirit of the Minsk Protocol and disrupt progress towards finding a sustainable political solution in this framework."
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the rebel vote would be in breach of the constitution and national law.
"These 'elections' will seriously undermine the Minsk Protocol and Memorandum, which need to be urgently implemented in full," he said in a statement.
The Russian Foreign Ministry responded quickly by saying that the original Minsk agreement foresaw local elections in the rebel-held territories between Oct. 19 and Nov. 3. It said that Poroshenko later set elections in the rebel-controlled areas for Dec. 7 without even consulting with them.
Earlier this month, Poroshenko signed a law offering a broad autonomy to the areas controlled by the rebels. The Ukrainian parliament, however, is yet to spell out specifics needed to implement the law and hold the vote. The rebels have been critical of the law, dismissing it as a propaganda gesture.
While the cease-fire helped reduce hostilities in eastern Ukraine, fighting has continued around the main rebel-held city of Donetsk and a few other areas as the warring parties have failed to reach agreement on a control line that would separate them.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday warned that the rejection of Sunday's vote in the east "could undermine the entire process of peaceful settlement."
"The most important thing now is to do everything to support the fragile cease-fire, start economic and humanitarian efforts to rebuild the region and engage in a lasting political dialogue," it said.
The ministry pledged that Moscow would urge the new rebel leadership to fulfill an earlier pledge to help preserve the "common economic, cultural and political space of Ukraine."
"There is a chance to use the Nov. 2 vote to bring the situation into the constructive course instead of thoughtless and groundless inciting of confrontation," it said.