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US warns Russia ahead of referendum in eastern Ukraine

May 11, 2014 11:41 IST

The United States has termed the referendum being planned in eastern Ukraine as "illegal", warning Russia of imposing greater costs on Moscow if it continues to destabilise its neighbouring country.

"As the United States has said, the referenda being planned for May 11 in portions of eastern Ukraine by armed separatist groups are illegal under Ukrainian law and are an attempt to create further division and disorder," State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

"If these referenda go forward, they will violate international law and the territorial integrity of Ukraine. The United States will not recognize the results of these illegal referenda," Psaki said, as the US warned Russia of greater cost if it continues to destabilise Ukraine.

"As President (Barack) Obama and (German) Chancellor (Angela) Merkel stated on May 2, the Russian leadership must know that if it continues to destabilize eastern Ukraine and disrupt this month's presidential election, we will move quickly to impose greater costs on Russia," Psaki said.

In a statement, the State Department expressed disappointed that the Russian government has not used its influence to forestall these referenda since Russian President Vladimir Putin's suggestion on May 7 that they be postponed, when he also claimed that Russian forces were pulling back from the Ukrainian border.

"Unfortunately, we still see no Russian military movement away from the border, and today Kremlin-backed social media and news stations encouraged residents of eastern Ukraine to vote tomorrow, one even offering instructions for polling stations in Moscow. Russian state media also continue to strongly back the referenda with no mention of Putin’s call for postponement," she said.

"The focus of the international community must now be on supporting the Ukrainian government's consistent efforts to hold a presidential election on May 25. International observers note that preparations for these elections are proceeding apace and in accordance with international standards, which will allow all Ukrainian people a voice in the future of their country," Psaki said.

"According to recent independent polls, a substantial majority of Ukrainians intend to vote on May 25. Any efforts to disrupt this democratic process will be seen clearly for what they are, attempts to deny the rights of Ukraine's citizens to express their political will freely," she said.

The Russian government can still choose to implement its Geneva commitments, as well as follow through on President Putin's statement of May 7.

"We call on them to do so," Psaki added.

Image: Pro-Russian protesters with Russian flags take part in a rally in central Donetsk

Photograph: Reuters

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