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WASHINGTON, May 28, /ITAR-TASS/. The United States government is still considering possible broader sanctions against Russia over the situation in Ukraine, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Psaki said at a regular press briefing on Tuesday that the option of using broader sanctions against sectors of Russia’s economy that the US had earlier repeatedly threatened to employ in certain circumstances “remains on the table”.
She said Washington will be “coordinating with the EU” whether to use additional punitive measures against Moscow.
When asked whether she is “asserting that Russia played a role in obstructing the voting [during Sunday’s early presidential election] in eastern Ukraine,” Psaki said that what she is asserting “is that there is no question that armed militants played a role, as we’ve seen evidence of across the board.”
“We’ve long believed and stated that there is a connection between Russia and these militants. We’ll continue to evaluate what specific role they played. That’s an ongoing discussion in the Administration now,” the US State Department spokeswoman said.
Psaki was unable to offer any proof to substantiate the allegations that Moscow was in any way involved in disruption of voting in Ukraine’s eastern regions.
UKRAINE’S EARLY PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
An early presidential election, set by Ukraine’s provisional authorities in Kiev who came to power amid riots during a coup in the country in February, was held in Ukraine on Sunday, May 25. Billionaire businessman and politician Pyotr Poroshenko apparently won it with more than 54% of the vote after over 94% of election protocols were processed.
Meanwhile, only 20% of polling stations were open in Ukraine’s breakaway eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions during Sunday’s vote, the head of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly delegation to the Ukrainian election, Tana de Zulueta, said at a news conference on Monday.
Zulueta also said that the voting had not taken place in 10 out of 22 districts of the Donetsk Region and in 14 out of 23 districts in the Lugansk Region. More than 800 out of 3,908 polling stations were open, she said, adding that the voter turnout at these polling stations had been lower than across the country on the average.
TURMOIL IN UKRAINE
Instability embraced Ukraine after February’s coup. Security concerns caused President Viktor Yanukovich to leave the country the same month.
The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian authorities, brought to power by the coup.
Crimea and Sevastopol adopted declarations of independence on March 11. They held a referendum on March 16, in which 96.77% of Crimeans and 95.6% of Sevastopol voters chose to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the reunification deals March 18.
After Crimea’s incorporation by Russia, massive protests against the new Ukrainian authorities in Kiev erupted in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeastern territories. Kiev has been conducting a punitive operation against pro-federalization activists that has already reportedly claimed dozens of lives, including civilian.
The Donetsk and Lugansk regions held referendums on May 11, in which most voters supported independence from Ukraine.
In late April, Putin dismissed Western claims that Russia could be in any way involved in pro-federalization protests in southeastern Ukraine.
“People say our special forces are present there [in Ukraine], say we have sent instructors there. Let me say in all responsibility that there are no Russian instructors, special forces or troops of any kind there. We have no one there,” Putin said.
WESTERN SANCTIONS AGAINST RUSSIA
Despite Moscow’s repeated statements that the Crimean referendum on secession was in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008, the West and Kiev have refused to recognize the legality of Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
Some Russian and Crimean officials and companies have been subjected to sanctions by Western nations, including visa bans and asset freezes after Crimea’s incorporation by Russia.
Russia has dismissed the threats of further penalties, including economic ones, against it, saying the language of punitive measures is counterproductive and will have a boomerang effect on Western countries.
In the Soviet Union, Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, when it was gifted to Ukraine by Soviet Communist Party leader Nikita Khrushchev.