Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia will work with Ukraine’s new president and wants better ties with the West. However, the US has expressed skepticism as to whether Putin will recognize the presidential election.
Russia has refused to recognize the current government in Kyiv since Parliament ousted Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovych on February 22. Each time Ukraine or the West pressured Moscow to speak to Kyiv, Moscow said no discussions would take place until a legitimate leader was in place.
Now, even though Putin offered to work with the new president, he made the remark the elections were not legal. From Bloomberg Businessweek:
“But let them hold it like that, at least,” Putin said yesterday at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. He said Russia wants “the situation to calm down” and will “respect the will of the Ukrainian people.”
Putin pointed to the violence as proof that Ukraine is in a civil war and said that, “strictly speaking, under the current constitution, it’s impossible to hold an election” because former President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia in February, “wasn’t removed from power using constitutional methods.”
At the same time, he also said that “after the elections, we will work with the new elected institutions.”
After Yanukovych was ousted, Russia made the move to annex Crimea from Ukraine in March because it believed the Russian speakers and ethnic Russians were not being treated properly. The West placed sanctions on Russia in response, and recently the US placed Igor Sechin on the list. He is President and Chairman of Rosneft, Russia’s largest petroleum company, with lucrative contracts with ExxonMobil.
“We are not planning any self-isolation,” Putin said, proposing dialogue and cooperation to show that Russia is open for business and, perhaps, to head off more sanctions. “We hope that common sense… will prompt our European and U.S. partners to work with Russia.”
The US has said it will have to wait to see if Putin does keep his word.
“We’ll have to see whether in fact Russia does recognize and then take steps to engage with the Ukrainian government and the victor of the presidential election,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One.
“We further urge Russia to use its influence to persuade separatists in eastern Ukraine and elsewhere to vacate buildings they’ve occupied, to lay down their weapons, to cease the activities they’ve engaged in that have caused violence and instability… and instead to participate in the democratic process in that country,” he added.