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Top Ukrainian official accuses Putin of 'blackmail' ahead of country's election

Ukraine's Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko told Hill.TV that Russian President Vladimir Putin is forcing Ukrainian voters to choose between further conflict with Russia or electing a presidential candidate preferred by Putin.

Lutsenko, when asked by Hill.TV's John Solomon last week if there has been any evidence of Russian interference in the upcoming elections, said, "This question was raised by Mr. Putin. Whether we go together with [President Petro] Poroshenko and we continue to wage war, or we go with anybody besides Mr. Poroshenko, and he works with anybody besides him."

"The question has been complicated not only because of the direct blackmail of Putin of the Ukrainian people but also of his influence on media resources in the country," Lutsenko added.

The Russian Embassy in Washington directed Hill.TV to recent comments made by President Vladimir Putin, in which he said there was a feeling of "Russiaphobia" among Ukraine's leadership, and called for unity between the two nations ahead of the election. 

"I hope that the wave of various pre-election situations and combinations in Ukraine wrapped up in Russophobia, which we currently see, will subside, and at least some conditions for developing interstate relations will be created," Putin said.

"People (in Ukraine) are just intimidated. They are even afraid to call their relatives in Russia. Ukraine's Security Service will eavesdrop on [telephone conversations], and there will be no end to problems," he continued. "Time is a great healer. I am confident that the deep roots of our common history, culture and faith will take the upper hand over today's political considerations,

Voters in Ukraine head to the polls on March 31 for presidential elections, where Poroshenko is seeking reelection. The first round of elections began Dec. 31. There are 39 candidates on the ballot.

Ukraine's security services are gearing up for potential Russian cyber attacks during the election amid tensions between the countries.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, prompting significant international backlash and sanctions against Moscow. The international community has not formally recognized Russia's seizure of the territory, and military tensions have been heightened ever since. 

- Hill.TV Staff