MOSCOW Russia said on Monday it respected the outcome of a referendum on self-rule in two east Ukrainian regions and that the results should be implemented peacefully.
Pro-Russian rebels declared a landslide victory in Sunday's referendum held in Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The Ukrainian authorities dismissed the vote as a farce and the European Union criticized the referendum.
"In Moscow, we respect the will of the people of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and are counting on practical implementation of the outcome of the referendum in a civilized manner, without any repeat of violence and through dialogue," the Kremlin said in a statement.
President Vladimir Putin, who distanced himself from the vote last week by calling on separatists to delay it, has not commented on the referendum which was held as fighting flared in the region bringing Ukraine closer towards possible civil war.
The Kremlin emphasized what it said was a "high turnout by the population, despite attempts to disrupt the vote".
"We condemn the use of force, including of heavy weapons against civilians," it also said in the statement.
Some pro-Russian voters saw Sunday's vote as a move toward eventual union with Russia. Moscow denies any ambition to absorb Ukraine's mainly Russian-speaking east, an industrial hub, into the Russian Federation following its annexation of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea after a referendum in March.
The Kremlin statement did not give details of any plans to act on the results of the referendum.
(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska and Alissa de Carbonnel, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Elizabeth Piper)