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U.S. Opinions: Los Angeles

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Let Ukrainians decide

From an editorial Wednesday in the Los Angeles Times:

As Ukrainians prepare to vote in Sunday’s presidential election, Russia is sending mixed signals about whether it will respect their right to self-determination. President Vladimir Putin has announced that he has ordered Russian troops to move back from the border after “planned spring exercises.” Meanwhile, Russian diplomats are signaling that Moscow would be willing to negotiate with the winner of the election.

Those are encouraging signs. They suggest that the calibrated sanctions the United States and its European allies have imposed on prominent Russian figures – with threats of broader sanctions if Russia undermines the election – may have had some success in checking further Russian adventurism. (The sanctions have done nothing, however, to roll back the Russian annexation of Crimea that Western nations reluctantly regard as a fait accompli.)

But parts of eastern Ukraine are still under the control of pro-Russia separatists who may be taking orders from Russian special forces. Putin could do more to ensure that separatists don’t prevent Ukrainian citizens from casting their ballots. It wouldn’t be out of character for the Kremlin to collude in preventing Ukrainians from voting and then question the legitimacy of the outcome because of low participation.

Given the historic ties between Ukraine and Russia, it’s understandable that Putin wants the new government of Ukraine to embrace measures such as greater decentralization and official status for the Russian language. But that civilized conversation will be impossible unless Russia recognizes that Ukrainians have the final say about their political arrangements.

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