Putin will "respect the choice of the Ukrainian people"

By Updated at 2014-05-23 17:57:01 +0000


Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday, President Putin said Russia wants peace and order to be restored to Ukraine and that Moscow will "respect the choice of the Ukrainian people," in Sunday's presidential election.
Twenty-one candidates will compete to become Ukraine's next leader on May 25. The front-runner in the polls is billionaire candy-maker Petro Poroshenko followed by former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko who is trailing by a significant margin.
Putin said Russia will be ready to work with the new leadership and added he hoped the new leader will end military actions in eastern Ukraine.
Sanctions making an impact
In his speech Putin said Western sanctions imposed against Russia over the Ukraine crisis are having a real impact on domestic businesses but cautioned the measures would cause a "boomerang effect."
"In the modern interdependent world, economic sanctions as an instrument of political pressure have a boomerang effect and will ultimately hurt businesses and the economies of the countries who initiated them," he said.
The European Union and the US imposed asset freezes and travel bans on Russian officials in response to the annexation of Crimea by Moscow and charges that Russia was fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine.
Putin, however, said he was staying positive over the prospects of solving the crisis in Ukraine. "I'm an optimist. I am not losing faith that the situation in Ukraine will at some point become normal and we will find the inner strength to normalize relations (with the United States)."
"We are not planning any self-isolation," Putin said. "We hope that common sense ... will prompt our European and US partners to work with Russia."
During his speech he also focused on plans to revive the country's flagging economy, reiterating a promise that the world's top oil and gas producer would diversify from energy exports. Gas and oil exports provide about 25 percent of Russia's gross domestic product. On Wednesday, Russia signed a long-awaited 30-year contract to supply natural gas to China.

(DW, Reuters, AFP, dpa)