Successful Ukraine vote a chance to ease crisis: EU
The European Union said Friday a successful presidential election in Ukraine this weekend would be a "major step" towards de-escalating the crisis.
"We reiterate the EU's strongest support for the holding of free, transparent and fair presidential elections," EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton said in a statement ahead of Sunday's vote.
"Successful elections will be a major step to de-escalate tensions and restore security and political stability," Ashton added.
Condemning what she described as "further attempts to destabilise the situation," Ashton warned that the EU would pay "particular attention to the attitude and behaviour of all parties and international partners" towards the polls.
Ashton's comments follow a pledge by Russian President Vladimir Putin to respect the outcome of the election, while warning that the country had descended into all-out civil war.
At least seven people were killed in fighting between pro-Russian rebels and government forces outside the eastern city of Donetsk on Friday, a day after the deaths of 18 soldiers in the heaviest loss for the Ukraine military since the conflict began.
Ashton said the EU was "deeply saddened" by the deaths.
Leaders of the 28 EU member states are to discuss the outcome of the vote at an informal summit on Tuesday as the bloc considers its next move after imposing travel ban and asset freeze sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian figures it believes have stoked the crisis.
Sunday's vote is seen as the most crucial since Ukraine's gained its independence in 1991 from a collapsing Soviet Union, with the country facing the threat of partition and teetering on the brink of economic collapse.
© 2014 AFP