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Putin Says Russia Will 'Respect' Ukraine Election Result

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on May 23.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on May 23.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia will "respect" the outcome of Ukraine's presidential election.

Speaking at an economic forum in St. Petersburg on May 23, Putin said Russia wants law and order restored in Ukraine and will work with whomever is elected.

He stopped short of declaring the May 25 election legitimate.

Putin also said Ukraine has descended into what he described as civil war and blamed the West for encouraging a "coup."

Putin also said sanctions imposed on Russia over its annexation of Crimea and its actions in eastern Ukraine will "boomerang" on the West.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said a successful presidential election will be a major step toward reducing tensions and restoring political stability in Ukraine.

In a statement on May 23, Ashton said that "Election authorities must be allowed to conduct elections without hindrance throughout the country and domestic and international observers must be allowed to fully fulfil their function."

Ukraine's government accuses Russia of being behind an armed insurgency in the east of the country.

The United States and the European Union have threatened more sanctions if Moscow disrupts the May 25 vote.

ALSO READ: Ukraine Vote Campaign Climaxes After 17 Troops Killed

Ukraine's acting President Oleksandr Turcynov urged all voters to take part in the election.

In a brief nationally televised address on May 23, Turchynov said Ukrainians will "never again stand being denied freedom and independence or seeing our Ukraine being turned into a part of a post-Soviet empire."

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have vowed to prevent voting in areas they control.

Ukrainian election officials say the separatists have seized more than half of the election commissions in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Meanwhile, clashes continued in Donetsk region where at least five people were reported killed on May 23.

On May 22, 16 soldiers were killed in an ambush in Donetsk, and one more soldier was killed in the neighboring Luhansk region.

Voters on May 25 will choose a new president to replace pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted and fled the country in February following months of protests.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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