Putin pledges to 'respect' Ukrainian election
Vladimir Putin warned yesterday that Ukraine has plunged into "full-scale civil war", but pledged to "respect" the outcome of the Ukrainian presidential elections tomorrow.
Mr Putin's comments, which will be taken as signal of a thaw in fraught relations between Moscow and Kiev, came as continued fighting between pro-Russian rebels and pro- government militias claimed at least two more lives.
Speaking at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, Mr Putin said Moscow would be willing to work with whoever came to power after the election. "We understand that the people of Ukraine want their country to emerge from this crisis. We will treat their choice with respect," he said.
Previously, Russian officials had suggested Moscow would refuse to recognise the vote.
Ukraine has been run by an interim government appointed by parliament since Viktor Yanukovych, the former president, was overthrown on February 22. Polls suggest a landslide victory for Petro Poroshenko, who was an early supporter of the Maidan protest movement that led to the revolution.
Mr Putin's comments appear to further isolate pro-Russian rebels fighting to carve out independent republics in the east of the country and he has not responded to appeals from rebel leaders to send "peacekeepers". (©Daily Telegraph, London)