Vladimir Putin says Russia will recognise the outcome of Ukraine’s presidential vote.
The Russian president said Moscow will “respect the choice of the Ukrainian people”, and added that Russia wants peace and order restored in Ukraine after the election, set for Sunday.
He added that Russia will be ready to work with the new leadership and voiced hope that Ukraine’s new leader will end military actions in eastern Ukraine.
But he blamed the West for plunging Ukraine into what he described as “chaos and a full-scale civil war”.
Speaking at an investment forum in St Petersburg, he blamed the West for encouraging a “coup” in Ukraine by encouraging massive protests that chased pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych from power in February.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s region of Crimea in March, triggering the worst crisis in relations with the West since the Cold War. Pro-Russian insurgents have also seized government buildings in eastern Ukraine and fought troops for more than a month.
Fighting in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russia insurgents raided a military checkpoint and killed 16 soldiers in the deadliest attack yet, has cast a shadow over the presidential vote.
Ukraine’s interim government and the West hope the vote will help stabilise the country, but the authorities in Kiev acknowledge it will be impossible to hold the vote in some areas in the east, where insurgents have declared independence and pledged to derail the vote. Election workers and activists have been threatened by gunmen.
Ukraine’s acting president Oleksandr Turchynov, urged all voters to take part in the election.