By Kyle Balluck - 05/11/14 07:34 AM EDT
The State Department blasted Sunday’s “illegal” self-rule referenda by armed separatist groups in eastern Ukraine, saying the votes are an attempt to create further division and disorder.
“In addition, we are disappointed that the Russian government has not used its influence to forestall these referenda since President Putin’s suggestion on May 7 that they be postponed, when he also claimed that Russian forces were pulling back from the Ukrainian border,” Psaki added.
Psaki criticized Kremlin-backed social media and news stations for encouraging residents to vote, adding that Russian state media continue to strongly back the referenda with no mention of Putin’s call for postponement.
“The focus of the international community must now be on supporting the Ukrainian government’s consistent efforts to hold a presidential election on May 25,” she said.
“International observers note that preparations for these elections are proceeding apace and in accordance with international standards, which will allow all Ukrainian people a voice in the future of their country. According to recent independent polls, a substantial majority of Ukrainians intend to vote on May 25. Any efforts to disrupt this democratic process will be seen clearly for what they are, attempts to deny the rights of Ukraine’s citizens to express their political will freely.”
Reuters reported on Sunday that clashes broke out near the rebel stronghold of Slaviansk.
Barricades of trees, tires and machinery blocked streets, according to the news service.
"I wanted to come as early as I could," said Zhenya Denyesh, a student told Reuters at a polling station. "We all want to live in our own country."