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Donetsk Region's Voting Turnout Highest Where Military Controlled Polls

  • Patrick Wells

In eastern Ukraine, most polling stations were closed amid threats and intimidation from pro-Russian separatists, but stations did open in some areas.

Despite threats and intimidation from pro-Russian separatists, Sunday's vote did go ahead in areas of the Donetsk region that are broadly under government control.

In Krasnoarmeysk, which was being guarded by Ukrainian military and militia units, several polling stations were open, although by midday only 10 percent of voters had turned out at the stations we visited.

Ruslan Tovschyk, the head of Polling station 141082, said people had their reasons for staying away. "The turnout is so low because people here don't see any candidate for them to vote for. This is the first reason, and the second is that people are just worried about their safety, and their ability to vote," he said.

Low turnout

Not everyone agreed with this analysis. Some regarded the low turnout as a vindication of the results of the referendum on secession that was held here two weeks ago, and further proof that this region really does want to secede from Ukraine.

"In our referendum more that 2,500 people came to vote between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. in our little town," said a man identified as Gregory. "But people don't want to come to these elections because this is merely a contest between different kinds of scum. They are all the same."

With the armed conflict currently engulfing this region, the election was expected to be difficult. But voter Igor Ivemych said that fear and a lack of appealing candidates were not adequate reasons to abstain.

"When you buy a new car, you have to buy one that's not too worn out and not too expensive so you still have enough money to buy boots for your wife. And also you have to have enough money left to repair the car in future," said Ivemych. "It's the same with choosing the president. We choose the best option available because there is no ideal candidate."

In Donetsk city, which currently is under separatist control, not a single ballot was cast after separatists methodically shut down polling stations and paraded confiscated election materials outside the occupied regional administration building.

With such a low turnout here, it is unlikely that the vote will bring this region any closer to a consensus on the will of its divided people.