Germany slams Russian backing of Ukraine rebel polls
Germany said Monday that Moscow's recognition of elections held by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine was "incomprehensible" and warned of possible further EU sanctions ahead.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's top spokesman said the "so-called elections" in the rebel-held areas were illegitimate and "further aggravate the crisis" in the conflict-torn former Soviet-ruled country.
Russia had ignored Western appeals ahead of the votes in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions and gave its full backing to the elections that Western-leaning Kiev branded an illegal farce.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said at a regular press conference that Merkel's government "does not recognise the illegitimate elections held yesterday".
The polls "have no legal relevance and do not contribute to the stabilisation of the situation or to the strengthening of the territorial integrity" of Ukraine, Seibert said.
"On the contrary, they further aggravate the crisis.
"Given that the polls were run in a very "questionable" way, he said, "it is therefore all the more incomprehensible that there are official Russian voices that either respect or recognise these so-called elections".
Berlin again called on Moscow "to do everything for the implementation of an immediate ceasefire," Seibert said.
He also pointed at renewed reports of fighters and weapons from Russia moving toward Lugansk and Donetsk, and to a Russian convoy that had entered the country without prior coordination with Kiev.
"These are all measures that preclude the early lifting of existing sanctions," he said, adding that "if the situation worsens, it may become necessary to consider a renewed intensification of sanctions.
"German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had earlier called on Russia to respect "the unity of Ukraine".
"We will judge Russia and President (Vladimir) Putin on their statements that the unity of Ukraine cannot be called into question," Steinmeier said on Twitter.
© 2014 AFP