“We are demanding (they) stop intimidating civilians by using force or threatening to use it,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
It added that it expects separatists in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions to respond in kind if Kiev does.
Russia also urged the United States and the European Union to persuade authorities in Kiev to prioritize discussions of giving more powers to Ukraine’s regions ahead of the country’s May 25 presidential vote.
Yevhen Perebiynis, spokesman for the Ukrainian foreign ministry, lamented yesterday that the OSCE deal does not specifically oblige Russia to do anything. The Ukrainian government and the West have accused Russia of fomenting the mutiny in the east to derail Ukraine’s presidential vote and possibly grab more land.
“The de-escalation of the situation directly depends on whether Russia will stop sponsoring the terrorists, withdraw its troops from the border or whether it will call on terrorists lay down the arms and vacate the building they have seized,” Perebiynis said in comments carried by the Interfax Ukraine news agency.
The separatists held a referendum Sunday and claimed that about 90 percent of those who voted in Donetsk and Luhansk backed sovereignty. The two regions declared independence on Monday and those in Donetsk even asked to join Russia.
Ukraine’s acting president called the vote a sham and Western governments said it violated international law.
The Kremlin has shown no immediate intention of annexing eastern Ukraine like it did the strategic Crimean Peninsula in March. Instead, Moscow has pushed for talks between Ukraine’s central government and eastern regions on Ukraine’s future — suggesting that Russia prefers a political rather than a military solution to its worst standoff with the West since the Cold War.
The interim government in Kiev had been hoping the May 25 presidential vote would unify the country behind a new, democratically chosen leadership. But Ukraine’s crisis could grow even worse if regions start rejecting the presidential election. The insurgents in Luhansk have already said they wouldn’t hold the presidential vote.