Putin warns of Ukraine civil war

By: Matt McGovern Email
By: Matt McGovern Email
Fresh violence erupts ahead of this weekend

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Friday of a "dangerous civil war" in Ukraine as fresh violence erupted ahead of this weekend's presidential election.

KIEV, UKRAINE (CNN) - Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Friday of a "dangerous civil war" in Ukraine as fresh violence erupted ahead of this weekend's presidential election.

Putin, addressing an international economic forum in St. Petersburg, said the chaos was the result of a "state coup" in Ukraine "with support of the West, the United States."

Former Soviet states must guard against wider destabilization, he said.

He also defended Russia's recent annexation of Crimea, which was condemned as illegitimate by Kiev and the West.

Putin said Russia was ensuring the "possibility of free will for the people" who chose to join Russia in a democratic referendum in March.

His remarks come as the interim government in Kiev prepares to hold presidential elections Sunday to choose a successor for ousted pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych.

Putin said he would respect the will of the Ukrainian people in the vote -- but reiterated Russia's assertion that according to Ukraine's Constitution, Yanukovych remains the legitimate president.

He also questioned whether the election should be held now given the current violence in eastern Ukraine.

Russian state media cited Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov as saying Friday that Russia would decide whether or not to recognize the polls only after the vote takes place.

"Let's wait for the elections first. Naturally, when Russia considers this issue (on legitimacy) we will take into account all factors," official news agency ITAR-Tass quotes Meshkov as saying.


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