[JURIST] The office of Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website] has declared that it does not wish to annex eastern Ukraine where "self-rule" referendums have overwhelmingly supported secession, but called on the Kiev government to open dialogue with the separatists. The referendums, organized by pro-Russian insurgents in Ukraine's Russian-speaking eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, claim a vote of about 90 percent in favor of forming their own sovereign nations. Separatist leaders have also expressed interest in joining the Russian Federation. Although Russia annexed the Crimea region [JURIST report] after a similar referendum in March, they have disavowed any interest [AP report] in doing the same with Ukraine's eastern regions and state that they wish the dispute to be resolved peacefully.
The ongoing conflict [BBC timeline] in Ukraine has reinvigorated fears of Cold War Era politics and increased tensions between Russia and the West. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] urged [JURIST report] Ukraine opposition groups in May to "lay down their weapons" and come to a peaceful resolution to the conflict. In April, the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] announced [JURIST report] that it has begun preliminary investigations into alleged crimes against humanity perpetrated during the unrest in Ukraine. Earlier that month, the UN approved a resolution invalidating Crimea's [JURIST backgrounder] secession from Ukraine less than a week after the EU imposed sanctions [JURIST reports] on Russia for annexing the region.