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Ukraine tells Russia to recognize new president

KIEV: Ukraine accused Russia on Saturday of unleashing a mass propaganda campaign to persuade global powers not to recognize an election that gave the presidency to a pro-Western tycoon.
The United States for its part acknowledged a “fundamental disagreement” with Russia and said President Barack Obama would extend his support to Petro Poroshenko when he meets the winner of the May 25 presidential election in Warsaw on Wednesday.
The months-long fight for future of the ex-Soviet nation — splintered between a more nationalist west and a heavily Russified southeast — has killed more than 300 people and resurrected the geopolitical barriers of the Cold War.
Ukraine’s separatist insurgency only intensified after 48-year-old billionaire chocolate maker Poroshenko won 54.7 percent of a ballot that was disrupted across swathes of the eastern rust belt.
Government forces reported suffering no casualties on Saturday while repelling two rebel attempts to recapture an airport in the eastern hub of Donetsk they had seized a day after the election at the cost of 40 fighters — most of them Russian nationals.
Ukraine’s acting foreign minister said Russia was now using every means at its disposal to unsettle the new Kiev leaders and regain control over its historic domain.
“Five days since elections, there has been no official recognition yet. Obviously, the Russian Federation doesn’t have legal grounds to question the election’s legitimacy,” Andriy Deshchytsya wrote in an opinion piece published in Saturday’s edition of the English-language Kyiv Post.
“The massive... information campaign Kremlin has launched these days, with an avalanche of doubletalk and fake news, signals one thing — this is Russia’s last chance to try shifting the balance of international public opinion,” he wrote.
Russia on Friday accused Ukraine of breaching the 1949 Geneva Conventions protecting civilians in wartime by killing and wounding peaceful citizens during its seven-week “anti-terrorist operation” in the separatist industrial regions of Lugansk and Donetsk.
And a furious information campaign unleashed by Moscow media portrays Kiev protesters as “fascists” and accuses the army of waging a “punitive operation” — the term once used to portray Nazi atrocities during World War II.
But Washington praised Ukraine for showing utmost “restraint” and accused the pro-Russian militias of “murder, kidnapping, and looting.” “We have a fundamental disagreement with the Russians about what the Ukrainian government is doing and the validity of their own right to maintain calm and order in their own country,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday voiced alarm over the sudden appearance of fighters from Russia’s war-ravaged region of Chechnya among the insurgents.
Psaki told reporters that “we do feel that there’s a Russian hand involved” in the Chechen gunmen’s entry into the fray.
But Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov said such charges were “absolutely untrue.” Russia’s Foreign Ministry criticized a suggestion by an official that an international monitoring body could withdraw its observer mission from Ukraine because of safety concerns, as shooting between government troops and pro-Russian rebels continued in the region on Saturday.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe says it lost contact on Thursday with a group of five monitors in separatist eastern Ukraine. Another four-member team has been held by eastern rebels since Monday.
Wolfgang Ischinger, the OSCE’s negotiator on national dialogue in Ukraine, told German broadcaster ZDF this week that the monitor mission might have to withdraw if the organization fears for its employees’ lives.