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Experts Say Russia Unlikely to Ease Up on Ukraine After Vote

Published: May 26, 2014 (Issue # 1812)



  • A voter showing off his passport before he casts a ballot in the Ukrainian presidential election in Moscow on Sunday.
    Photo: Vladimir Filonov / SPT

As Ukrainians cast their votes for a new president on Sunday, analysts said the election was unlikely to fully stabilize the situation in the strife-ridden nation — partly because it would be in Moscow's best interest to keep its smaller neighbor mired in conflict.

"Instability in Ukraine is a very handy tool for Russia, and I do not think Moscow will give it up," Maria Lipman of the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank told The St. Petersburg Times.

Moscow's tentative acknowledgement of Sunday's snap presidential vote in Ukraine is a tactical move and not a shift toward long-term deescalation, analysts said ahead of Sunday's vote.

Last week, Russia shifted inland the troops it had previously amassed on its border with Ukraine.

The move was partially confirmed by the Pentagon, unlike previous reports of a pullout.

President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that the withdrawal was intended to create "favorable conditions for Ukraine's presidential vote," an apparent indication that Moscow wanted the elections to go smoothly.

He tapered his words, however, adding that "it will be very hard for us to work with people who come to power against the backdrop of a punitive operation in southeastern Ukraine."

On Friday, he said Russia was nevertheless ready to work with newly elected Ukrainian authorities.

Experts agreed that the Kremlin's softened policy was simply a reaction to the West's direct threat to ramp up economic sanctions if Russia disrupted the Ukrainian polls.

The Russian government will continue to stir up trouble in Ukraine in order to prevent the weakened country from turning to the West, analysts said.

Twenty-one candidates competed in the Ukrainian vote, but there are no pro-Russian candidates among the favorites.

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