Daily Israel Report

Moscow Pushing for Peace Before Kiev Vote

Vladimir Putin vows to work with the new Ukrainian government ahead of the Kiev vote. But is it too little, too late?
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 5/24/2014, 9:45 PM

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Reuters

The stakes are high in Ukraine, international media reports Saturday, as both Moscow and Kiev made bold statements ahead of Ukrainian elections. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin reassured the public Saturday that, despite months of violence in eastern Ukraine, Moscow is actively looking to maintain stability. 

"By all means, we will respect the choice of the Ukrainian people and will be working with authorities formed on the basis of this election," Putin told foreign journalists during an international economic forum in St. Petersburg Saturday. 

Up to 40,000 Russian troops have rumored to been at the ready on the Russian-Ukrainian border over the past month, as violence raged in Ukraine's eastern districts.

landmark deal reached last month between Russia, the US and the European Union (EU) called for the separatists, who have been seizing government buildings in eastern Ukraine for several days, to disarm and stand down - in exchange for amnesty.

Putin has also stated multiple times that he would retract his forces from the border - pacifying the West - on the condition that separatists stand down. 

The pro-Russian protesters have largely ignored the deal, however, claiming that the agreement does not apply to them. 

Calls for a full-fledged separation and change in national loyalty follow the controversial annexation of the Crimean peninsula several months ago, after a de facto military invasion sparked an uprising in the former Ukrainian territory. 

'We cannot be intimidated' 

Up to 20 people have been killed in the past several days alone in separatist clashes, Reuters said Saturday. But despite the deaths, the separatists stated that they will still refuse to recognize the new Ukrainian government - sparking fears that the public in those districts will be cowed into staying far away from polls. 

The acting Ukrainian government remains defiant, however. 

"Tomorrow we will demonstrate to the whole world, but above all to ourselves, that we cannot be intimidated," Acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Artseniy Yatsenyuk said in a televised statement.

He vowed to combat the ongoing unrest. 

"The newly elected president will receive from the Ukrainian people a mandate for a determined and unstoppable movement away from the grey zone of lawlessness and dark forces that dream of suffocating us and into an area of free people, rallied around common values - to a place where it is easier to breathe."

"Remember, tomorrow, with our ballot papers, we will be defending Ukraine, investing in its prosperity and in the future of our children and grandchildren," he continued. 

"We will vote, and that means we will triumph." 

Ukrainian's Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, has made few moves to reconcile with Russia - accusing Moscow of funding the "terrorism" in Donetsk despite Putin's support. 

"The penetration onto Ukrainian territory of armed terrorist groups, organized by the Russian authorities, is nothing other than the latest act of aggression against our state and a cynical breach by Russia of the norms and principles of international law," the ministry stated.

The new government is likely to pull sharply away from Russia, as the tug-of-war between Moscow and the European Union (EU) triggered the root cause of the current violence, the popular uprising against former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.

Analysts claim that Putin has been keen to pull Kiev into Russia's formidable trading empire - and increase his sociocultural hold over the former Soviet state - while many Ukrainians have been eager to stick with the familiar and close relationship between Kiev and Moscow, despite the uprisings.

On the other hand, locals say, many Ukrainians have campaigned for the right to travel freely throughout the EU, and have fully supported the Western pull of the acting government. 

On the international front, Russia's aggressiveness has pushed Ukraine into the diplomatic limelight, with many Western nations providing full support to the acting government in a push for the EU to embrace Ukraine's policy shifts.

Even eastern European countries have jumped on the pro-EU bandwagon, according to AFP - reeling from what many perceive as a Russian attempt to retake parts of the former Soviet Union.