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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Ukraine Rebel Leader Sworn In After Disputed Election

by VOA News November 04, 2014

A pro-Russian rebel leader was sworn in as the head of a self-declared 'people's republic' in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, following elections rejected by Kyiv as illegitimate.

The swearing-in of Alexander Zakharchenko as prime minister of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic is set to worsen a standoff with Ukraine that has already killed 4,000 people since April.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko meets with his security chiefs Tuesday to consider a response to the Sunday elections, which were held in the Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

In a televised appearance Monday, President Poroshenko called the vote a farce that violated a September cease-fire with the rebels.

'The pseudo-elections are a brutal violation of the Minsk Protocol of September 5,' he said. 'The Minsk Protocol provides for the holding of early local elections in the area of Donbass solely under the laws of Ukraine. We provided them with the given opportunity. The farce of November 2 jeopardizes the entire peace process, the beginning of which has been achieved at the coast of outstanding efforts.'

Poroshenko also said he plans to cancel parts of the peace plan that would have offered a degree of autonomy to the areas held by the rebels.

International condemnation

The United Nations, the United States and the European Union have all rejected the vote and say they will not recognize the outcome.

On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the election 'unfortunate and counterproductive,' saying the situation in Ukraine remains a matter of great concern.

Although Russia has not recognized the independence of restive eastern Ukraine, its endorsement of the elections' validity exacerbated even further Moscow's relations with the West.

In Washington, meanwhile, NATO's top general painted a bleak picture of Western ties with Russia.

​​U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, in a briefing with reporters, said Moscow's interference in the Ukraine crisis threatens to create what he called 'a frozen conflict.'

Breedlove said he believes there are as many as 300 Russian troops inside Ukraine training and equipping rebels, and said about seven Russian battalions remain poised on the Russian side of the Ukraine border. He also warned that Moscow is effectively working to shift that border westward into Ukraine territory.

Russia denies role in uprising

Moscow has denied any direct role in the uprising, which began when pro-Russian rebels took up arms against the Kyiv government in April. The Kremlin has described Russian soldiers fighting alongside rebels in Ukraine's east as volunteers.

It was not clear Monday whether Moscow would formally recognize the rebel-held territories. But a Russian deputy foreign minister said the newly elected leadership in Luhansk and Donetsk now has a mandate to negotiate with the Kyiv government.

Sunday's polls in Ukraine's east came a week after voters in the rest of Ukraine voted overwhelmingly for a new parliament dominated by pro-Western lawmakers favoring closer ties with western Europe.

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