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AKIPRESS.COM - The Kremlin made it clear Monday that it has no intention to try to annex Ukraine's eastern provinces after the controversial referendums where the majority of voters allegedly said they backed sovereignty for their regions, Star Tribune reported.
The Russian President Vladimir Putin's office urged the Ukrainian government to engage in talks with representatives of the eastern part of the country following Sunday's vote. The cautious stance appears to reflect Putin's hope to negotiate a solution to what has become the worst crisis between Russia and the West since the Cold War.
The Kremlin also urged the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to help broker talks between the central government in Kiev and representatives of the east.
Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, whose country currently chairs the OSCE, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week to propose a road map for settling the Ukrainian crisis. Burkhalter said in a statement Monday that Ukraine has accepted a proposal to nominate Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger as OSCE co-moderator for round-tables intended to launch a national dialogue in Ukraine.
The pro-Russian insurgents who organized the vote claimed 89 percent of those who cast ballots Sunday in the Donetsk region and about 96 percent of those who turned out in the neighboring Luhansk region voted for sovereignty. It remained unclear whether the vote could lead to their secession.
Ukraine's central government and the West have condemned the balloting as a sham and a violation of international law, and accused Moscow of fomenting the unrest in a possible attempt to grab more land weeks after the Crimea's annexation – accusations that Russia has denied.
In its statement, the Kremlin criticized the Ukrainian authorities for trying to thwart the balloting by using weapons against civilians. It pointed at a “high turnout” in the vote and voiced respect for its results.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow sees no need for another four-way meeting between Russia, the United States, the European Union and Ukraine following their talks in Geneva last month, saying that the Ukrainian authorities should now focus on dialogue with the east.
He accused Washington and Kiev's government of stonewalling the OSCE road map and warned that efforts to defuse the crisis wouldn't be successful without “engaging opponents of the regime in a direct dialogue.”
Sunday's voting in the two regions with a combined population of 6.5 million appeared mostly peaceful, but armed men opened fire on a crowd outside the town hall in Krasnoarmeisk. The men identified themselves to a crowd as Ukrainian national guards but the Interior Ministry has denied they were part of the national guard.