Photographer Anton Aleynikov
By Jane Morse
The Ukrainian people should be able to choose their future in a fair, open, free and accessible election, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says.
“Our message is really quite simple,” the secretary said at a May 15 press conference in London. “Let Ukraine vote.”
“We call on the separatists and Russians to respect this election process, to help to make it happen, even to encourage Ukrainians to be able to define their future. That’s the best way to de-escalate the situation,” Kerry said.
Kerry is in London to meet with the core group of the Friends of the Syrian People. This group, known as the London 11, includes Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. While Syria was the primary reason for the meeting, the group also discussed the crisis in Ukraine and appropriate responses to Russia’s actions there.
Russia may face more sanctions if it attempts to impede elections scheduled for May 25 in Ukraine, Kerry said.
“We agreed this morning,” Kerry said of the London 11 discussions, “that if Russia or its proxies disrupt the election, the United States and those countries represented here today in the European Union will impose sectoral economic sanctions as a result.”
Kerry declined to specify what the sectoral economic sanctions against Russia might be, but he said, “We have completed our work. We know what they are. We’re ready. And last week we had State Department and Treasury personnel here in Europe working with our European allies in order to define precisely what that road ahead should be.”
“Let me emphasize,” Kerry said, “our hope is not to do this. Our hope is not that we have to go to the next stage. I say to the Russians and everybody, our hope is to de-escalate.”
“Our hope is that in the eight days between now and the election, there could be a concerted effort to try to put the confrontation behind us and put the effort to build Ukraine in front of us, and to try to do it together,” Kerry said.
“We welcome the successful national dialogue roundtable in Kyiv that took place yesterday and the very good conversation there on decentralization, constitutional reform and the protection of minority rights,” Kerry said. “And we hope that the separatists, we hope the Russians, we hope that others who are disgruntled by what is taking place will take note of a legitimate effort to try to reach out, bring people to the table and find political compromise.”
Kerry added: “We are absolutely committed to the notion that there must be a protection of these minority rights, and we support the government in Kyiv’s efforts to reach out with serious, concrete plans for increased autonomy and decentralization.”