WASHINGTON— One week before Ukraine holds a national election, unrest and separatist fervor remain strong in the country's eastern areas. The Obama administration is stressing the importance of the May 25 vote, even as Ukraine’s full participation remains in doubt.
Explosions signaled the latest clashes between Ukrainian security forces and pro-Russian militants near the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk, where self-appointed mayor Vyacheslav Ponomaryov rejected Kyiv’s authority.
“They (Ukrainian authorities) have always been occupiers, and remain so. Everything we are doing we do not for ourselves but for the people. Let them determine their destiny,” said Ponomaryov.
Elsewhere in eastern Ukraine, signs abound of a deepening conflict. United Nations human rights monitor Ivan Simonovic says numerous violations have been reported.
“The human rights monitoring mission has received information that 250 people have been killed, including local residents, national security forces, and armed groups. Any further arming of protesters and their transformation into paramilitary groups must immediately stop. Armed groups should be urgently disarmed,” said Simonovic.
In Washington, the White House Spokesman Jay Carney said the U.S. continues to look ahead to next Sunday’s presidential election as a critical step to bringing the crisis in Ukraine under control.
“Our focus and the focus of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) and the Ukrainian government and all of our partners in this effort is on ensuring that those elections are able to go forward. And the OSCE has reported that the preparations, the technical preparations for the elections are proceeding well,” said Carney.
The situation in Ukraine is one of several crises that have emboldened domestic critics of the Obama administration’s handling of foreign policy. Former Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox News Sunday the president has repeatedly shown he can be “pushed around” by Russian President Vladimir Putin.