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Moscow questions Ukraine vote amid "thunder of guns"

Moscow on Saturday questioned whether Ukraine's May 25 presidential election can be held democratically amid continued fighting in the east of the country.

MOSCOW: Moscow on Saturday questioned whether Ukraine's May 25 presidential election can be held democratically in the face of continued fighting in the east of the country.

"Can elections held amid the thunder of guns really meet the democratic norms of the electoral process?" the foreign ministry said in a statement, urging authorities in Kiev to "immediately end military operations" in the country's southeast.

Ukraine's military has been battling for over a month to try to crush a rebellion by pro-Russian separatists in the industrial east, where dozens of people have been killed.

Accusing Kiev of carrying out "punitive action against its own citizens", Moscow said government troops had attempted overnight to storm the town of Slavyansk in the Donetsk region, using air support and heavy artillery.

It said people had been wounded in the attack and accused Kiev of "creating a real threat to the lives of civilians".

It also charged that Kiev's pro-Western government was using talks on national reconciliation "as a cover for aggressive action".

It urged Western nations to convince Ukraine's interim leaders to "launch real and not phony work toward national reconciliation".

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