BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — The foreign ministers of four Central European countries and Britain have condemned a plan by pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine to hold local elections.
In a joint statement after their meeting Thursday in the Slovak capital of Bratislava, the ministers called the vote set for Sunday "illegitimate" and in breach of a cease-fire deal reached in Minsk, Belarus, last month.
"We call on all parties to observe the Minsk Protocol and the Minsk Memorandum and to act toward the peaceful solution of the conflict and restoring stability based upon the full respect of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine," they said.
The ministers representing Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland together with their British counterpart, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, also urged Russia not to recognize the vote.
"We call upon the Russian Federation to significantly contribute to the peaceful solution of the conflict by refusing to acknowledge such 'elections,'" they said. "The only elections that have legitimacy in Ukraine are those held under Ukrainian law."
The EU has already warned that it wouldn't recognize the vote but Russia says a rejection of the rebel vote could undermine the entire peaceful settlement.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also said the rebel vote would breach both the Ukrainian constitution and national law.
In Moscow, former rebel leader Igor Streklov told reporters that he did not think the cease-fire in eastern Ukraine would last long and fighting would resume soon.
The conflict that began a month after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in March has killed at least 3,000 people and left sections of eastern Ukraine under rebel control.
Ukraine says Moscow supports the rebels, a charge that Moscow denies.