Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, left, speaks with Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague during their meeting in Kiev May 6, 2014. Andrew Kravchenko/Reuters
British Foreign Secretary William Hague accused Russia Wednesday of trying to "orchestrate conflict" in Ukraine ahead of the May 25 presidential election.
Hague told a news conference Wednesday that the actions of Russians in eastern Ukraine are clearly aimed at disrupting the election.
"Russia has illegally annexed part of Ukraine's territory and is actively creating unrest in other parts of the country," Hague said. "I think they want to stop you from holding the elections. That is the objective, and that reflects a fear of the power of democracy."
Concerning so-called pro-Russians in eastern Ukraine, he added: "It is clear that the leading elements of these forces, it is clear to us from their training, their equipment, their identical behaviour to infiltrators in Crimea, are not simply pro-Russian forces. Parts of them have been Russian forces, not just pro-Russian. I think that is common sense, I think that is quite obvious."
Hague described some of the disruptive forces in the east as "hired thugs."
Hague promised that the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union will all be actively monitoring the Ukraine election. They are also discussing further sanctions aimed at halting Russian efforts to disrupt the country.
The United Nations' undersecretary-general for political affairs also arrived in Kyiv to meet with the country's temporary leaders.
Jeffrey Feltman and Oleksandr Turchynov, Ukraine's acting president, met early on Wednesday.
The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. Feltman was in Moscow on Tuesday and met with Gennady Gatilov, a deputy foreign minister.
Speaking in a BBC interview earlier, Hague lent his support to the election. He said Ukrainians "cannot be bullied out of having their elections by disorder that is deliberately fomented and co-ordinated from another country, in this instance Russia."
The Kremlin said on Wednesday that many U.S. companies were coming under pressure not to attend an annual economic forum that is hosted by President Vladimir Putin and is Russia's answer to the World Economic Forum in Davos.
The May 22-24 St Petersburg Economic Forum is usually attended by chief executives of big U.S. firms, as well as heads of other international companies, but the U.S. government has said it is not appropriate for them to attend this year because of the crisis in Ukraine.
"As we know, many U.S. companies have faced direct unprecedented pressure …. They are deciding whether to go or not to go to the forum but not on their own," Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told RIA news agency.
He said Putin had not altered his agenda for the forum, which is intended to woo investors. Putin is due to deliver the keynote address at the forum.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said last week that U.S. government officials had been discussing the forum with business leaders, and had made it clear that attending would not be appropriate given "flagrant violations of a sovereign nation's territorial integrity."
Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in March, following the ouster of the country's pro-Moscow president, and pro-Russian separatists have taken over several towns and cities in Russian-speaking areas of eastern Ukraine.
Some Russian companies and individuals have faced sanctions over the events in Ukraine. Moscow denies being behind the moves in the eastern regions.
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