Ukrainian law enforcement must be “more decisive” in fighting separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, that country’s foreign minster, Andrii Deshchytsia, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday.
Operations have recently been suspended, he said, but vowed they would continue, because “separatist groups did not stop.”
“They have been in the last few days taking more and more buildings, and terrorizing more civil population.”
“So I think that we, the Ukrainian government and the law enforcement forces have to be more decisive, and actually what people from the region are expecting from us.”
Pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine have decided to go ahead with a Sunday referendum on greater local powers, they said Thursday, defying a call by Russian President Vladimir Putin to postpone the vote.
Putin had urged the pro-Russia sympathizers to delay the referendum to give dialogue "the conditions it needs to have a chance."
“What he should do is to ask to stop the referendum,” Deshchytsia said.
The referendum, he said, “is illegal,” and he told Amanpour his country is committed to holding presidential elections as scheduled on May 25.
“We do believe that these elections will be held all around Ukraine, and this is actually the reason why the law enforcement units in eastern Ukraine has launched the operation to restore the order in this part of Ukraine.”
The Ukrainian government, he told Amanpour, is prepared to negotiate directly with Russia. But Russia, he said, is not following through with its stated commitment to stabilization.
President Putin announced on Wednesday that Russia was pulling back troops from near the Ukrainian border; the U.S. and NATO dispute this claim.
“According to the intelligent data of Ukrainian military,” Deshchytsia said, “there is no movement of Russian troops back to the Russian territory.”