Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday it would be “unusual” to hold a presidential election in Ukraine while the army was being deployed against Ukrainians.
Lavrov’s comments, after a meeting of the Council of Europe human rights organisation in Vienna, suggested Moscow could be preparing a reason to question the legitimacy of the May 25 election if it is unhappy with the outcome.
His words came as violence escalated, with Ukraine’s military seeking to regain control of swaths of the country that pro-Russian militia groups have seized. Kiev and many in the West believe that the separatists are backed by Moscow and fear that Russian President Vladimir Putin is fomenting trouble to increase his influence in the region.
Earlier, in remarks to reporters in Vienna, British Foreign Secretary William Hague accused Russia of seeking to undermine Ukraine’s presidential elections.
On French TV station BFMTV earlier Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande echoed Hague’s concern that Ukraine’s election should go ahead as planned.
“The main goal we have is that the presidential election should be held in Ukraine on May 25,” he said. “Otherwise, there will be chaos and civil war. Vladimir Putin wishes today that this election does not take place.”
Earlier this week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon offered his mediation to help de-escalate the situation in Ukraine as long as the situation has not become uncontrollable.