KYIV - A leader of Russian-backed separatists in east Ukraine signed a decree on Wednesday to hold local elections, a move President Petro Poroshenko condemned as a risky and irresponsible decision that threatened a cease-fire
Under the terms of the much-violated Minsk peace agreement, reached in February, local elections were meant to be held in the separatist regions in tandem with the rest of the country, but Kyiv has said they cannot take place due to security and monitoring concerns.
The separatists, who have unilaterally set up their own mini-republics, have instead scheduled their own ballot – the results of which Kyiv is unlikely to recognize.
Rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko signed a decree to hold the elections starting on October 18, separatist press service DAN reported.
Ukrainian authorities will hold their local elections in most regions on October 25, but will not conduct voting in some regions bordering separatist territory or in the rebel regions.
Poroshenko swiftly denounced the rebels' move in a meeting with foreign ambassadors.
"The leaders of the so-called DNR (Donetsk People's Republic) and LNR (Luhansk People's Republic) have announced a decision, which they have taken in coordination with the Russian Federation, to hold fake unlawful elections, which contradict the Minsk agreements," he said.
"This risky and irresponsible decision requires our firm and coordinated reaction to the threat created to the Minsk agreements, such as prolongation and widening of sanctions."
The so-called LNR has previously said it would hold elections on November 2.
Fighting has frequently punctured the cease-fire over the past seven months, but violence has died down noticeably in the past week with the Ukrainian military reporting not one violation from the rebel side on Wednesday.
Close to 8,000 people have been killed since fighting erupted in April last year. Ukraine and NATO accuse Russia of supporting rebels with troops and weapons, a charge the Kremlin denies.