Russia will recognize elections to be held by rebels in Ukraine's Donbass region on November 2, Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, told newspaper Izvestiya in an interview. The move will likely worsen Russia's already strained relations with the West, which has demanded that Russia withdraw support for the rebels and assist reintegration of the rebel-held districts in Ukraine.
"These are spontaneously formed structures that have not just been recognized as leaders of the proclaimed republics, but are partners in the context of the Minsk peace accords... and the signatures of their representatives Aleksandr Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitskii are on a whole number of documents including on the Minsk agreement of September 5 and September 19," Lavrov told Izvestiya, referring to the pro-Russian rebel authorities of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and Lugansk People's Republic.
The self-proclaimed republics of Lugansk and Donetsk refused to participate in Ukraine's parliamentary elections October 26, and instead have scheduled elections to local assemblies for November 2, which Western countries have said they will not recognize.
Asked whether Russia would recognize these elections, Lavrov said, "we think that this is one of the most important elements of the Minsk accords. We expect that the elections will take place as arranged and we will of course recognize the results," Lavrov told Izvestiya. "We count on the elections being free and that no one will try to intervene to disrupt them," he underlined.
"The elections to be held on the territory of the proclaimed Lugansk and Donetsk People's Republics will be important from the point of view of legitimization of the authorities," Lavrov added.
Lavrov also spoke of Russia's relationship to Ukraine's newly elected parliament with a pro-European majority. Lavrov said that Russia recognized the elections, and regarded the eponymous party of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko as its "partners" in the new parliament - due to Poroshenko's role in signing the September 5 peace accords.
"I am sure that we will have people we can talk to in the Verkhovna Rada mostly because… the leading role in Verkhovna Rada will become the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, who is our partner, the partner of our president in signing the Minsk peace accords [on September 5, regulating the ceasefire in East Ukraine]," Lavrov said in an interview with Russian media.
The Petro Poroshenko Bloc is likely to take the largest number of seats in parliament, according to analysts, but with a result significantly below the 52% Poroshenko took in presidential elections May 25.
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