Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Tuesday said the legitimacy of the election is in doubt because of Ukrainian military action in the east against pro-Russian separatists.
Kerry dismissed that and said the right of the Ukrainian people to decide their own future is a universal value respected around the world. He said any more referendums that would split parts of Ukraine to join Russia would be bogus and unrecognized by all civilized nations.
British Foreign Minister William Hague accused Russia Tuesday of trying to prevent or disrupt Ukraine’s May 25 presidential election. And French President Francois Hollande warned of the risk of civil war if the vote is not held.
Pro-Russian separatists control about a dozen eastern Ukrainian towns and cities, demanding the right to vote on whether to split with Ukraine and join Russia. A similar referendum in Crimea in March led to the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula and the current crisis.
Ukrainian forces are trying to take back the towns. Russia’s Foreign Ministry is calling on Ukraine to withdraw its troops from the east and open talks on ways to resolve the political crisis.
Interim Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk accuses Russia of seeking to destroy Ukraine by engineering what he says is a “well-planned provocation” against the government.
Russia says the new Ukrainian government is controlled by anti-Russian nationalists and neo-Nazis. It says it has the right to protect Russian speakers.