Russia is backing a plan by separatists in eastern Ukraine to hold a vote in areas under their control ostensibly as part of a deal with Kiev to allow limited self-rule in the region. The vote, set for Nov. 2 would come days after Ukrainian elections that saw pro-Western parties allied with President Petro Poroshenko sweep to power.
But the Ukrainian government says the elections come too early and has urged Russia to put pressure on the rebels it backs to hold off. Western governments have also opposed the poll.
The vote would be held in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, collectively known as “Donbass,” where pro-Russia rebels fought to break away and where a shaky truce has been in force since early September. Although the region did cast votes in Ukrainian national elections, turnout was low.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the voting “will be important to legitimize authorities there.
“We are reckoning that the vote will be free and that nobody from outside will try to wreck it, ” Lavrov said in a translation used by the BBC.
According to the BBC:
“Under the truce deal the Ukrainian authorities pledged not to prosecute the leaders of the eastern rebellion – yet many Ukrainian politicians want prosecutions, denouncing the rebels as ‘terrorists.’
“The deal also called for a withdrawal of ‘illegal militant groups’ from Ukraine, but the rebels remain heavily armed and it is not clear how many Russian ‘volunteer’ soldiers are still there helping them.
“Moscow says any Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine are freelance ‘volunteers,’ although Ukraine and Western governments said Russia had earlier sent in regular army units.”