VIENNA - British Foreign Minister William Hague accused Russia of trying to disrupt Ukraine's planned presidential election, as he arrived on Tuesday for a Council of Europe meeting due to focus on the Ukraine crisis.
"Russia seems to be intent on a course of preventing and disrupting those elections. That is wrong," Hague told reporters as he arrived at a conference of the pan-European rights body in Vienna.
"I think there will be a very strong message from the great majority of countries here today that Ukrainian elections must be allowed to go ahead," he said.
"The Ukrainians have every right to their own government, their own president and a free a democratic election."
Ukraine's presidential election is set to take place on May 25 but Moscow has called the vote "absurd", while separatists in Ukraine are preparing their own independence referendum on Sunday.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made no comment as he arrived at the Vienna meeting, while his Ukrainian counterpart Andriy Deshchytsia said only he wanted a "strong statement" of support from the Council of Europe.
It remained unclear whether the two men, who attended a dinner on Monday together with other foreign ministers, would hold a bilateral meeting during their time in Austria.
The last time Lavrov and Deshchytsia, whose Western-backed Kiev government Moscow refuses to recognise, are thought to have met officially was when a deal aimed at resolving the crisis was struck in Geneva on April 17.
This deal has since unravelled but German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Sunday he was in talks with Russia, the United States and the European Union about a second peace conference in the Swiss city.
Hague said Tuesday: "The diplomatic doors remain open and so if there is a way of putting new life into what was done at Geneva three weeks ago then we should try that."
"But it would have to be on the basis of the countries that are there... really implementing what they have committed themselves to do," he cautioned.
"Last time, Russia came to Geneva and then did not take a single action to implement the agreement that had been made."
Around 30 foreign ministers and other top diplomats were due to take part in the one-day Council of Europe, but Steinmeier and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius were absent.
Russia trying to disrupt Ukraine election: Hague