Kyiv has reacted with scepticism to an apparent attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine.
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk derided his call to separatists to postpone a vote on independence. Directing his remarks to the Russian leader he said: “Vladimir Putin: there is no point in dealing in hot air, especially for the president of a big country. The fact that Russia is asking to postpone some referendum on May 11, I think that the Russian president needs to be informed that there never was a referendum planned on that day. But if terrorists and separatists supported by Russia got an order to postpone something that doesn’t exist, this is internal to them.”
Putin’s remarks about Sunday’s referendum and his surprise support for Ukraine’s election on May 25 were made during a meeting with the OSCE and have been seen as a possible breakthrough by the West.
“I want to underline that the planned presidential elections in Kyiv are a move in the right direction, but they won’t solve anything if all of the citizens of Ukraine don’t understand how their rights will be guaranteed after the elections are held,” said President Putin.
But despite the eleventh-hour remarks by the Russian leader, preparations have continued in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine for holding the controversial referendum to break off ties with Kyiv and declare independence.
Many pro-Russian separatists believe the vote is the only way forward for the region to find peace.