Ukraine Separatists Ask To Join Russia

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From the article:

Though the Kremlin didn’t directly say it recognized the referendum, it said it “respected” the vote and called it the will of the people. In a statement, the Kremlin expressed hope “that the practical implementation of the outcome of the referendums will be carried out in a civilized manner without any recurrence of violence, through dialogue between representatives of Kiev, Donetsk and Luhansk.”


Ukraine Separatists Ask to Join Russia (Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2014):

Kremlin Calls for Talks Between Government and Rebels, Putting Pressure on Kiev

Separatist leaders in Ukraine’s volatile Donetsk region formally asked to become part of Russia on Monday, hours after the Kremlin welcomed its controversial vote to declare independence and urged the Kiev government to hold talks with the rebels.

The Kremlin didn’t immediately respond to the separatist request. But it marks the most acute threat to Ukraine’s territorial integrity since the annexation of Crimea in March, putting further pressure on Kiev to negotiate with separatists or face further chaos in the east.

Separatist leaders said the Sunday secession vote passed overwhelmingly in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, but voters weren’t asked to decide whether they wanted their regions to become part of Russia or stay part of Ukraine. They were asked only whether they supported independence for their respective regions.

Ukraine’s capital denounced the referendum as a propaganda exercise and farce and refused to hold a dialogue with rebels who have “blood on their hands.”

The new government in Kiev has been resistant to meeting with the rebels since such talks could legitimize them as the leading voice for people in the east. But as the newly empowered rebels prepare to consolidate their rule, Kiev faces the prospect of reaching a political agreement that cedes more control to the rebel regions or of watching Ukraine further fall apart.

Russia has called for changes to Ukraine’s constitution that would transform the country into a federation, where each region would win more powers of self-government.

Ukraine and the West see such a possibility as Moscow’s attempt to assert control over its neighbor by formalizing pro-Russia republics within Ukraine’s borders. Authorities in Kiev believe such republics would scuttle their European ambitions.

Denis Pushilin, leader of the separatist movement in the Donetsk region, officially declared the Donetsk People’s Republic a sovereign state at a news conference Monday. “Given the stated wishes of the population of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the need for the restoration of historical justice, we ask the Russian Federation to consider including the Donetsk People’s Republic as part of the Russian Federation,” Mr. Pushilin said.

Separatist leaders in neighboring Luhansk declared their region’s independence but stopped short of issuing a request for Russian annexation.

Mr. Pushilin also vowed to prevent Ukraine’s scheduled May 25 presidential election from taking place in the Donetsk region.

European and U.S. officials echoed the Ukrainian government’s rebuke of the referendum. European Union foreign ministers prepared for a modest expansion of sanctions against Russia on Monday, due to add more than a dozen Russian officials and pro-Russia separatists to the bloc’s sanctions list.

Though the Kremlin didn’t directly say it recognized the referendum, it said it “respected” the vote and called it the will of the people. In a statement, the Kremlin expressed hope “that the practical implementation of the outcome of the referendums will be carried out in a civilized manner without any recurrence of violence, through dialogue between representatives of Kiev, Donetsk and Luhansk.”

Acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov, however, vowed criminal prosecutions for those who organized the referendum, promising in a statement to continue Kiev’s fight against “terrorists, saboteurs and criminals” in the east. Rebel militants there have taken activists, journalists and monitors hostage.

“The authorities will engage in dialogue with those in east Ukraine who don’t have blood on their hands and are prepared to defend their interests through legitimate means of persuasion,” he said in a statement.

The rebels haven’t ruled out negotiations with Kiev authorities, but made clear they were pushing ahead with plans to take control.

Igor Strelkov, the Donetsk People’s Republic top commander, whom Kiev has accused of being a Russian military intelligence operative, issued an order Monday demanding that all military and police structures in the region hand over their arms and report to him.

In an interview with Russian state television, Mr. Pushilin vowed to push out authorities loyal to Kiev and liberate districts still under their yoke. He vowed to create a full army for the Donetsk People’s Republic “to get rid of the occupiers of our motherland.”

Some saw the Kremlin’s comments on the referendum as a move to pressure Kiev into negotiating on federalization.

“What is happening right now is preparation so that after the presidential elections there can be serious discussions on a rearrangement (of the government structure),” said Fyodor Lukyanov, a top Russian foreign policy expert.

The cost of refusing negotiations is high. “If Kiev continues on its present path, then federalization will be off the table,” Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said. “It will not be off the table in favor of a unitary state—it will be off the table in favor of partition or a civil conflict.”

A poll by Kiev International Sociology Institute showed last month that less than a quarter of the people polled like the idea of federalization of Ukraine. This idea was supported more widely in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

In Brussels on Monday, the EU’s foreign ministers met and uniformly condemned the referendum. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt called the ballot outcomes “fake figures from a fake referendum” and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said they “can’t be taken seriously.”

Speaking on his way into the meeting, U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague called on the bloc to ready a new phase of broader economic sanctions against Russia in case they’re needed. The EU has been working with capitals on preparing this third stage of sanctions which could hit sectors of the Russian economy ranging from energy to financial services.

“I think it’s very important for us to demonstrate that we are ready for that…more far reaching sanctions depending on Russia’s attitude towards the elections on May 25,” Mr. Hague said.

—Alan Cullison contributed to this article.

Corrections & Amplifications
The Kremlin said that Moscow welcomes all efforts to start negotiations between Kiev and separatist regions with the involvement of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. An earlier version incorrectly said the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

 

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