Ukraine accused Russia on Saturday of unleashing a global propaganda campaign to persuade global powers not to recognise an election that gave the presidency to a pro-Western tycoon.
Washington for its part admitted to a “fundamental disagreement” with Russia and said President Barack Obama would meet Petro Poroshenko, whose May 25 presidential election win Moscow refuses to acknowledge, in Warsaw on Wednesday.
The months-long fight for future of the ex-Soviet nation -- splintered between a more nationalist west and a heavily Russified southeast -- has killed more than 300 people and resurrected the geopolitical barriers of the Cold War.
Ukraine’s separatist insurgency only intensified after 48-year-old billionaire chocolate maker Poroshenko won 54.7 per cent of a ballot that was disrupted across swathes of the eastern rust belt.
Government forces reported suffering no casualties on Saturday while repelling two rebel attempts to recapture an airport in the eastern hub of Donetsk they had seized a day after the election at the cost of 40 fighters -- most of them Russian nationals.
Ukraine’s acting foreign minister said Russia was now using every means at its disposal to unsettle the new Kiev leaders and regain control over its historic domain.
“Five days since elections, there has been no official recognition yet. Obviously, the Russian Federation doesn’t have legal grounds to question the election’s legitimacy,” Andriy Deshchytsya wrote in an opinion piece published in Saturday’s edition of the English-language Kyiv Post.
“The massive... information campaign Kremlin has launched these days, with an avalanche of doubletalk and fake news, signals one thing -- this is Russia’s last chance to try shifting the balance of international public opinion,” he wrote.
Russia on Friday accused Ukraine of breaching the 1949 Geneva Conventions protecting civilians in wartime by killing and wounding peaceful citizens during its seven-week “anti-terrorist operation” in the separatist industrial regions of Lugansk and Donetsk.
And a furious information campaign unleashed by Russia’s state media portrays Kiev protesters as “fascists” and accuses the army of unleashing a “punitive operation” -- the term once used to portray Nazi atrocities during World War II.
But Washington praised Ukraine for showing utmost “restraint” and accused the pro-Russian militias of “murder, kidnapping, and looting”.
“We have a fundamental disagreement with the Russians about what the Ukrainian government is doing and the validity of their own right to maintain calm and order in their own country,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
“And in our view, since the beginning of the unrest, while we’ve seen numerous human rights abuses by the separatists, including murder, kidnapping, and looting, the Ukrainian government has, continues to have, the responsibility to enforce law and order on its territory.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin -- keen on seeing Ukraine join a post-Soviet economic union that includes only Belarus and Kazakhstan -- has promised to “respect” the will of Ukrainian voters while failing to congratulate Poroshenko with the result.
Neither has Putin confirmed Poroshenko’s promise to conduct the first meeting between the two neighbours’ presidents since the February uprising at D-Day commemorations in Normandy on June 6.
But Washington said Russia had taken a small step to relieve tensions by pulling back two-thirds of the 40,000 soldiers it had massed at Ukraine’s border since its March seizure of the Crimea peninsula.
“These initial steps are positive, but we would like to see the full withdrawal,” Psaki said.