Merkel Slams Ukraine Separatist Ballot, Says May 25 Vote Crucial

Chancellor Angela Merkel dismissed separatist referendums in Ukraine and called on all groups in the former Soviet republic and Russia to ensure that the presidential election scheduled for May 25 takes place.

“The referendum is illegal, so the result doesn’t interest me very much,” Merkel told reporters today in Berlin, as International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde warned that the Russian economy would face further pressure if the conflict in Ukraine isn’t resolved.

Merkel invoked her push to hold round-table meetings between authorities and civil society groups in an effort to calm tension ahead of the Ukraine vote. All efforts must be undertaken to guarantee the election, Merkel said.

“Everybody is called on to contribute to this, also Russia,” the chancellor said after a meeting with Lagarde and four other leaders of international organizations. “Violence cannot be used as a way to resolve these problems.”

The Ukraine conflict deteriorated today as insurgents killed seven Ukrainian soldiers and wounded eight others in an ambush near an eastern rebel-held stronghold. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier took the initiative on diplomatic efforts, visiting Kiev and Odessa today in an attempt to broker talks between the government and separatists.

After the IMF lowered its forecasts for Russian growth to 0.2 percent this year and 1 percent in 2015, Lagarde said that the outlook could “clearly deteriorate,” since the current assessment assumes the conflict will be resolved.

The IMF chief said the $17 billion pledged to Ukraine is “clearly not enough,” and the country will need the $15 billion in loans pledged by other international organizations.

“We very much hope that every party concerned, including Russia, will participate in supporting this economic stabilization,” Lagarde said in Berlin.

In addition to Lagarde, Merkel also met with OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, World Trade Organization Director General Roberto Azevedo and International Labor Organization Director-General Guy Ryder.

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