Moscow says 'absurd' to conduct Ukraine polls amid violence

AFP , Saturday 3 May 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said it would be absurd to conduct snap polls in Ukraine amid the raging violence, saying the Kremlin no longer had any influence over rebels in the country's east.

"We do not understand what elections in Kiev they are talking about in European capitals and Washington," Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

"Obviously, on the basis of the current constitution, during military operations, a reprisal raid and mass killings, speaking about some sort of elections is absurd to say the least."

Ever since Moscow took control of Ukraine's Russian-speaking peninsula of Crimea in March, the West has been on tenterhooks expecting Russia to move troops to Kremlin-friendly eastern Ukraine.

But many analysts have suggested Russia will stop short of invading east Ukraine and will instead seek to compromise presidential polls on May 25 in a bid to retain influence in the neighbouring Slavic country.

Peskov also said that Russia could no longer influence events on the ground in eastern Ukraine, which have plunged Russia's ties with the West to their lowest point since the Cold War.

"From now on Russia... has essentially lost influence over these people because it will be impossible to convince them to lay down arms" when there's a direct threat to their lives, the state RIA Novosti news agency quoted Peskov as saying.

He said Moscow was receiving "thousands of calls" from eastern Ukraine with requests for help and that Putin was "extremely concerned" by the new developments.

"An overwhelming majority literally demands active help from Russia," he said.

Peskov added: "The Russian president is extremely concerned by the way the situation is developing and the way it is being interpreted by the global community, in some countries of the global community."

Asked how Moscow would respond to the escalating crisis, Peskov told Russian news agencies: "I cannot answer this question, it's an absolutely new element for us."

"This is not a conflict where Russia is a participant, this is a conflict in Ukraine."

He spoke after at least nine were killed during Kiev's military offensive against pro-Moscow rebels in the Russian-speaking town of Slavyansk in eastern Ukraine.

On top of that, at least 42 people died in clashes and a fire in the city of Odessa.

Peskov said Putin was expressing condolences to relatives of those who perished in the Odessa fire, calling it a "reprisal raid," an emotive term used in Russian history textbooks to describe Nazi raids against peaceful civilians during World War II.

He said the Kiev authorities were "up to their elbows in blood."

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