Upcoming Ukraine Election Tainted by Crisis – Russian Official

MOSCOW, March 7 (RIA Novosti) – The upcoming May 25 presidential election in Ukraine will not be free and fair if violence and intimidation in the country continue, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament said Friday.

Senator Valentina Matviyenko also said Russia cannot recognize the legitimacy of its western neighbor’s new government, which has hastily called the election.

“In the context of intimidation, threats to people’s lives, the overthrow of government agencies and the persecution of political opponents and journalists, we do not believe that the conditions now exist for holding a fair, open and transparent election,” Matviyenko said.

Matviyenko earlier noted that Russia would respect the results of an upcoming popular vote on the secession of Crimea – currently part of Ukraine – and would welcome the addition of the region into the territory of Russia if the population votes for that result.

Crimea’s parliament decided Thursday to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, and scheduled a popular vote to approve or reject that decision on March 16, which will be 10 days after the announcement.

Since last week, masked soldiers lacking official insignia but under apparent Russian command have surrounded military facilities and seized key infrastructure on the peninsula.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has insisted that the masked soldiers are “local militia.”

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