Ukraine leaders meet to 're-examine' peace plan

2014-11-04 13:28
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. (File: AP)

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. (File: AP)

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Kiev - Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was to meet security chiefs on Tuesday to "re-examine" an already teetering peace accord with pro-Russian separatists after they defiantly staged elections banned by Kiev.

The elections of leaders in two unrecognised statelets in eastern Ukraine were backed by Russia but condemned vociferously by Ukraine, the United States and EU powers.

Poroshenko, speaking late on Monday, said "these pseudo elections are a gross violation" of the 5 September truce deal.

That accord was meant to pave the way for an end to the seven month separatist conflict with a ceasefire and an offer of autonomy, but not independence, for the pro-Russian insurgents. Fighting, including frequent violations of the ceasefire, has already cost more than 4 000 lives and sparked the biggest crisis between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

Controversial elections

A meeting of the National Security and Defence Council would consider "abolition" of the key law offering autonomy, Poroshenko said.

"The pseudo-election torpedoed the law and sharply aggravated the situation," he said, vowing only to deal with "legitimately elected local self-government bodies, but not... bandits who crown themselves."

The winners of the two controversial elections in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions were expected to be inaugurated on Tuesday.

The separatist figures were quoted late Monday by Russian news agency Interfax as saying that they were ready for "dialogue", but only on an equal basis with the government in Kiev. They said any laws passed in Kiev without their consent would have no force.

'Sham' elections

The United States followed Europe in hammering Sunday's rebel polls, which showed Ukraine's inability to control the eastern region, and were conducted without recognised election observers. Only Moscow endorsed the elections, a move likely to harden Western resolve to maintain punishing economic sanctions against Russia.

"These sham elections contravened Ukraine's constitution... and the most basic electoral norms," said the White House, while the State Department warned Moscow that recognising the polls "would only serve to isolate it further".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's top spokesperson described as "incomprehensible" Moscow's approval of the vote - in which the Kremlin-backed candidates faced no serious competition - and warned this would "further aggravate the crisis".

Nato's supreme allied commander, US General Philip Breedlove, warned of a "revanchist Russia" whose recent ramping up of military flights into European airspace was causing the Western alliance concern.

Russian defiance, sanctions

Russia risks an intensifying of tough EU and US economic sanctions after declaring it "respected" the outcome of the poll.

"Those elected have received a mandate to resolve the practical issues of re-establishing normal life in the region," Moscow's foreign ministry said in a statement.

Its deputy foreign minister piled further pressure on Kiev by demanding it call a definitive end to military operations in the east and talk to the rebels on equal terms.

"This work can bring results only on condition of equal dialogue based on mutual respect, with Kiev renouncing military operations and the notorious 'anti-terror operation'," Grigory Karasin told state news agency TASS.

In New York, Russia also blocked an attempt in the UN Security Council to criticise the elections.

French President Francois Hollande said sanctions against Russia are "essential... but they should not be the sole response.

"The objective is to convince Moscow and the separatists to renounce escalation and to return to a dialogue."

The separatist uprisings in the pro-Russian corner of Ukraine started shortly after Russia's troops invaded and annexed Crimea, a southern Ukrainian region, in March.

Moscow justified that dramatic redrawing of the map by saying it needed to protect ethnic Russians from a surge of Ukrainian nationalism following a pro-Western revolution in the capital Kiev a month earlier.

It claims to provide only diplomatic and humanitarian aid to the eastern rebels, despite the heavy firepower boasted by some of the insurgent brigades and the long columns of military trucks frequently seen in the area of the Ukraine-Russia border.

Former electrician turned insurgent leader Alexander Zakharchenko won Sunday's election to head the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic. In neighbouring Lugansk region, current insurgent supremo Igor Plotnitsky, a former Soviet army officer, was the winner.

Read more on:    petro poroshenko  |  russia  |  ukraine

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