US denounces 'bogus' referendum plan in east Ukraine

US denounces 'bogus' referendum plan in east Ukraine
Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.

WASHINGTON - The United States on Tuesday denounced moves by pro-Russian separatist groups in eastern Ukraine to organise what it called a "bogus" referendum.

US Secretary of State John Kerry slammed the efforts to organise a referendum on May 11 in the eastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk as "contrived." "We flatly reject this illegal effort to further divide Ukraine. And its pursuit will create even more problems in the effort to try to de-escalate the situation," he told reporters, after meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

"We are not going to sit idly by while Russian elements fan the flames of instability instead of fulfilling the commitments that we made." Kiev and its Western backers believe Moscow is trying to ensure the planned "referendum" goes ahead in a bid to sow chaos ahead of nationwide presidential election due to be held two weeks later.

The West considers the May 25 presidential elections as crucial to restoring legitimacy to the government of the former Soviet republic, after interim leaders were installed by the parliament when pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych fled in the face of widespread pro-democracy protest.

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