By Mick Krever, CNN
A day after Ukrainians elected pro-Western billionaire Petro Poroshenko, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that Russia must “accept the reality” that an “overwhelming majority of them have made their choice.”
That choice is Poroshenko, who says that European integration is his priority. He has declared victory, and his main opponent has conceded.
“I don’t think the Russians were particularly happy about this particular election. But it has taken place and it has created, or produced, a very clear verdict.”
“And obviously the people of Ukraine want Petro Poroshenko as their president, and he wants to take the country closer to the European Union. That has to be accepted by Russia as well.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated on Monday that Moscow would recognize the result of the election, but he also raised questions about how the campaigning and election were conducted.
“I think it’s good that we have had some statements coming out of Moscow indicating that they will not totally reject the election result.”
Nonetheless, eastern Ukraine remains very volatile, where separatists remain ardent that they wish to join Russia. A CNN team near Donetsk airport witnessed a Ukrainian helicopter firing on and striking an unknown target.
“Clearly Russia must be able to play a constructive role to close down these destabilizing, armed activities going on in the east,” Bildt said.
“There are things that Russia can do. If you look at Russian state television, the propaganda that they are beaming into Ukraine, which are fuelling fear and hatred, I think that has to stop. There has to be some sort of objective information coming out of Moscow as well.”
It is unclear whether the U.S. and the European Union will impose further sanctions on Russia; Bildt said that European heads of state would discuss just that at a private dinner tomorrow.
But he admitted that the measures passed so far, focussed mostly on a handful of individuals, have not had a significant effect.
“I think Russia has taken a significant beating. Less from the sanctions and more from the activities or actions of Mister Putin himself and the uncertainty that that has installed in every sort of assessment of where Russia is heading.”
Meanwhile, Crimea remains under Russian control; Western countries insist they will never recognize the annexation, but there seems little prospect of the territory returning to Ukraine.
It is “fairly obvious” he said that the situation will not change soon,” Bildt said. But “we will consider this to be occupied, illegally occupied territory.”