Ukraine president in talks over rebel polls

Nov 04, 2014, 12:56 AM EST
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko gestures as he speaks to media in a polling station in Kiev on October 26, 2014, during Ukraine's parliamentary elections.
AFP/Getty Images

Ukraine's president is to chair a crisis meeting of his security chiefs, following elections in rebel-held areas which Kiev describes as a "farce". The BBC writes:

In a TV address, Petro Poroshenko said Sunday's polls in parts of the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions could derail the "entire peace process".

Two pro-Russian leaders were declared the winners of the polls and are expected to be sworn on Tuesday. The West says the elections were illegal, but Russia is backing them. More than 4,000 people have been killed in fighting in eastern Ukraine since April.

Ukraine accuses Russia of arming the rebels and sending Russian regular troops across the border - a claim denied by Moscow. A nominal ceasefire has been in place in eastern Ukraine since 5 September, but there have been repeated violations by both sides.

The clashes in the east began a month after Russia annexed Ukraine's southern Crimea peninsula.

Mining electrician-turned-rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko won over 81 percent of the vote, according to the rebels' exit polls of an election that has worsened a standoff between Russia and the West. Reuters reports:

The United States and European Union have already denounced it as illegitimate, but Russia has said it would recognize the result, deepening a crisis that began with the popular overthrow of a Moscow-backed president in February.

Poroshenko said the votes in the eastern Ukrainian rebel region of Donetsk and a separate one in Luhansk were "a farce, (conducted) under the barrels of tanks and machine guns."

"I hope Russia will not recognize the so-called elections because they are a clear violation of the Sept. 5 Minsk protocol, which was also signed by Russia's representative," he said, referring to an international peace agreement meant to end months of fighting between the separatists and Ukrainian troops.

In Donetsk, eastern Ukraine's former industrial capital and the separatists' political and military stronghold, Soviet music blared out of speakers in front of a central voting station carrying the separatist's red black and blue flag.

The European Union has condemned as "illegal" elections held by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The BBC reports:

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the polls were "a new obstacle on the path towards peace".

The central government in Kiev also described as a "farce" the polls in the two self-proclaimed people's republics in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Russia said it "respects the will of the people" in the polls, where the two current rebel leaders are set to win.

Self-proclaimed election officials say early results suggest Alexander Zakharchenko will become the regional head in Donetsk, while Igor Plotnisky will secure a victory in Luhansk.

The rebels also staged what they called parliamentary elections in the two regions - collectively known as Donbas.