WASHINGTON, DC— Representative Eliot L. Engel today made the following statement regarding the referendum held on May 11 by separatists in several cities in eastern Ukraine:

“The so-called referendum held on May 11 by separatists in some cities in eastern Ukraine was illegal under Ukraine’s constitution, was conducted under the threat of violence, and did not meet even minimal democratic standards. It has no legal force. Furthermore, the organizers of the referendum have no democratic legitimacy and cannot speak for the people in eastern Ukraine, where multiple opinion polls have shown little support for separatism. Their actions, including the continued occupation of administrative buildings, the taking of hostages, and threats against journalists and civil society, only promote further discord and conflict.

“I continue to urge all sides to take immediate steps to deescalate tensions and to engage in an inclusive political process to resolve their differences. I call on the authorities in Kyiv to continue the national dialogue on constitutional reform and decentralization, and on all parties to focus on the May 25 elections, which offer the opportunity for Ukrainians to freely express their political views. I also call on Russia to refrain from further destabilizing actions in Ukraine. At the same time, the United States and our European allies must reaffirm our commitment to supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and for the right of its people to chart their own future.”