US rejects Crimea regional election16 september 2014, 12:21
The United States on Monday rejected as illegitimate the first local elections in Crimea since Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine in March, AFP reports.
"The United States does not recognize the legitimacy of the so-called local and regional elections in Crimea on September 14 and will not acknowledge their outcome," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.
Washington, she said, "continues to condemn the Russian Federation's occupation and purported annexation of Ukrainian territory and its violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Russia's ruling party appears to have convincingly won Sunday's vote. Crimea's electoral commission said Monday that "the Crimea regional branch of United Russia is leading with 71.04 percent," with the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia in second with over eight percent.
No other party appeared to have broken five percent.
If results hold, they will help Russian President Vladimir Putin cement his grip on power in the peninsula, a development directly opposed by Russia's primary Cold War foe Washington.
"Our position on Crimea remains clear: the peninsula remains an integral part of Ukraine," Harf said.
"We call on Russia to return Crimea to its rightful status as part of Ukraine."
The inhabitants of the Crimea peninsula, where Russia's Black Sea naval fleet is based, were voting to select lawmakers for the parliaments of Crimea and Sevastopol, and for local city councillors.
Parliamentarians will then elect governors for Crimea and Sevastopol.