(Adds quotes, context)
MOSCOW May 13 Russia said on Tuesday new
European Union sanctions will hinder efforts to defuse the
crisis in Ukraine and urged the West to persuade Kiev to hold
discussions on the country's future structure before a May 25
The results of self-rule referendums in the mainly
Russian-speaking eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk "should
be a clear signal to Kiev of the depth of the crisis" in
Ukraine, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The Kremlin has stopped short of endorsing independence for
the regions or their absorption into Russia but has said the
referendums underscore the need for talks between the
pro-Western government and separatists from the east.
"Moscow hopes ... the EU and United States will use their
influence on the current leadership in Kiev so that issues of
state structure and respect for the rights of regions are
discussed soon - in any case before the election scheduled for
May 25," it said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested the Ukrainian
election, which the government hopes will increase its
legitimacy and control, will not be legitimate if people in the
east are not confident their rights will be protected.
The EU imposed sanctions on two Crimean companies and 13
people on Monday in response to Moscow's annexation of the Black
Sea peninsula from Ukraine and its support for Russian-speaking
The EU had already imposed asset freezes and visa bans on 48
Russians and Ukrainians, and the United States has also imposed
sanctions during the worst crisis in relations between Moscow
and the West since the Cold War.
Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told the EU envoy to
Russia on Tuesday that the EU sanctions were a "exhausted, trite
approach ... that will not only not resolve but will deepen
differences, hindering the joint search for a way out of the
real crisis situation in Ukraine," the Foreign Ministry said.
(Writing by Steve Gutterman, Editing by Timothy Heritage)