US, EU Call Election in Pro-Russian E. Ukraine a Sham

Voters in the Kremlin-backed Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine cast ballots Sunday for local government leaders in what Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called a “fake election.”

Denis Pushilin, the 37-year-old acting leader of Donetsk, was elected with over 61 percent of the vote with almost all ballots counted, according to the local electoral commission.

Leonid Pasechnik, the acting leader of Luhansk, took 68 percent of the vote.

The United States and European Union have both denounced the election as illegal and a deterrent to a negotiated settlement.

“The people in eastern Ukraine will be better off with a unified Ukraine at peace rather than in a second-rate police state run by crooks and thugs, all subsidized by Russian taxpayers,” U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker tweeted Sunday.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the vote was illegitimate, adding that the EU will not recognize the results.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a joint statement that the vote was “illegal and illegitimate. The “so-called elections undermine the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine,” the statement said.

Russia has backed the Russian-speaking insurgents in the self-proclaimed People’s Republics in Eastern Ukraine.

Russia has repeatedly denied charges it has been arming the rebels.

While the heaviest fighting that has killed more than 10,000 people in eastern Ukraine has generally ended, occasional skirmishes between the insurgents and Ukrainian soldiers flare up with deadly results.

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