(Adds comment from German government spokesman)
By Madeline Chambers
BERLIN May 7 Ukrainian presidential candidate
Petro Poroshenko urged Europe and the United States to agree on
a third wave of sanctions against Russia if the Kremlin supports
a referendum planned by separatists in eastern Ukraine on May
Separatists in the Donbass region say the Sunday referendum
on secession will be similar to the one that preceded Russia's
annexation of Crimea in March. Such a move could complicate
Ukraine's May 25 presidential elections.
"If Russia will support this referendum we need absolutely
agreed action about the third wave of sanctions,
well-coordinated between the United States of America and the
European Union," Poroshenko told reporters in Berlin shortly
before meeting Chancellor Angela Merkel.
A poll last month put Poroshenko, who supported the
pro-European uprising which ousted Kremlin-backed president
Viktor Yanukovich, on 48.4 percent, just short of the absolute
majority needed to avoid a runoff in a second round.
The confectionery tycoon said his priority was to stabilise
the situation in Ukraine, where fears of war are mounting, and
left open the possibility of a referendum later.
"We are ready to have even a referendum but not under (the
threat of) machineguns or automatic rifles," he said, adding
people were afraid to visit polling stations.
"After the presidential election, after restoring law and
order, we are ready to discuss any referendum and we are not
afraid of a referendum, including the constitutional changes
which I ... am ready to discuss with anybody."
Poroshenko also said the Russians "want to invite some
separatists to the table" of a second round of Geneva talks but
that these people had little support and the only legitimate
representative of Ukrainians should be the foreign minister.
He said his visit to Merkel was not about her supporting his
campaign to become president, but rather about the chancellor of
Germany backing Ukraine's attempts to defend its sovereignty.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said earlier
this week a Sunday referendum would violate Ukraine's
constitution and worsen an already deadly situation.
"The chancellor expressed to Mr Poroshenko, as she does to
all dialogue partners in connection with Ukraine, the importance
of being willing to talk and capable of having a dialogue,
especially in view of the election on May 25," Seibert said
after Merkel's talks with Poroshenko.
"The OSCE should play a strong role in that."
The European Union and United States have warned Russia it
will face additional sanctions against key sectors of its
economy if Moscow disrupts Ukraine's plan to hold elections.
The West has already imposed several rounds of sanctions on
specific Russians, including some members of Putin's inner
circle, and several companies.
(Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke and Stephen Brown;
editing by Andrew Roche)