Ukraine’s planned presidential election, seen by the EU as vital to restoring order in the country, will not be held in two restive eastern regions, separatist leaders have said.
Separatist leaders on Monday said the May 25 election will not be held in Donetsk and Luhansk, the two regions where a vote for self-rule was held on Sunday. Unverified results of the vote announced by the separatists indicate an overwhelming “yes” vote.
Denis Pushilin, the self-styled governor of the “People’s Republic of Donetsk” said the presidential election “will not happen” in the Donetsk region, AFP news agency reported.
A separatist leader from Luhansk also said the presidential vote will not be held in the region.
“As of today, we are now the Republic of Luhansk, which believes it to be inappropriate and perhaps even stupid to hold a presidential election,” Russia’s RIA news agency quoted him as saying.
Donetsk’s self-styled governor also said Donetsk was asking Moscow to consider its absorption into the Russian Federation, Reuters news agency reported.
“We have received sovereignty, the right to decide independently to enter into a confederation or federation with any country,” Pushilin said.
Only Russia is likely to recognise the “People’s Republic of Donetsk” and the Kremlin has already said it “respects the expression of the people’s will” there.
On Monday, however, the Kremlin made it clear that Moscow has no intention of immediately annexing the regions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s office urged the Ukrainian government to engage in talks with representatives of eastern Ukraine that could be brokered by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Russian state news agency RIA, meanwhile, reported that Luhansk would be holding a referendum to join Russia following Sunday’s vote for self-rule.
“If this decision (to hold a referendum on joining Russia) is taken, then, respectively, the will of the people will be taken into account,” RIA cited a spokesman for the pro-Russian separatists as saying.
A referendum organiser was reported as saying that 96.2 percent of voters supported autonomy for Luhansk.
The vote for self-rule has been denounced by Kiev.
Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers held talks over Ukraine, insisting the May 25 presidential election go ahead, as they prepared to announce new sanctions against Russians and Crimeans involved in the crisis.
A further 13 people and two companies were expected to be listed as subject to a European Union asset freeze and visa ban, two EU diplomats told AFP.
The foreign ministers also hinted at further sanctions if the election were to be disrupted, Reuters news agency reported.
“The European Union will pay particular attention to all parties’ attitude and behaviour towards the holding of free and fair presidential elections when deciding about possible future measures,” they said in a statement after a meeting in Brussels.