World

Russia backs Ukrainian separatists' election, setting stage for renewed tensions with West

  • Election officials count the votes during rebel elections at a polling station in the city of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014. The pro-Russian rebels are holding the elections that were dismissed by Ukraine and the West as illegitimate.  (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

    Election officials count the votes during rebel elections at a polling station in the city of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014. The pro-Russian rebels are holding the elections that were dismissed by Ukraine and the West as illegitimate. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)  (The Associated Press)

  • ALTERNATIVE CROP - Election officials empty a ballot box with rebel eagle symbol and the words Donetsk Peoples Republic, during rebel elections at a polling station in the city of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014. The pro-Russian rebels are holding the elections that were dismissed by Ukraine and the West as illegitimate.  (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

    ALTERNATIVE CROP - Election officials empty a ballot box with rebel eagle symbol and the words Donetsk Peoples Republic, during rebel elections at a polling station in the city of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014. The pro-Russian rebels are holding the elections that were dismissed by Ukraine and the West as illegitimate. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pro-Russian rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko, left, surrounded by his security speaks on a phone not far from the front line near Donetsk airport in the city of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014. Residents of separatist-controlled regions in eastern Ukraine voted Sunday to elect legislators and executives in polls that have been staunchly denounced by the international community. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

    Pro-Russian rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko, left, surrounded by his security speaks on a phone not far from the front line near Donetsk airport in the city of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014. Residents of separatist-controlled regions in eastern Ukraine voted Sunday to elect legislators and executives in polls that have been staunchly denounced by the international community. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)  (The Associated Press)

Russia has backed a contentious election held by separatists in eastern Ukraine, setting the stage for renewed diplomatic tensions with the West.

The Foreign Ministry said Monday that the vote in Donetsk and Luhansk gave elected representatives the authority to restore stability in regions unsettled by an armed separatist insurgency.

Plans for Sunday's vote had been sharply criticized by the EU and the U.S., which said it violated Ukrainian law and undermined a September cease-fire deal. In the vote, residents in Donetsk and Luhansk were choosing legislators and executives.

Vote results unveiled Monday showed Alexander Zakharchenko, the rebel leader in Donetsk, claiming an easy victory.

Despite the cease-fire agreement, fighting rages daily between government troops and rebel forces in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.