News / Europe

Security Concerns Ahead of Ukraine Vote

Intimidation Mars Donetsk Preparations for Sunday's Ukraine Votei
X
Patrick Wells
May 23, 2014 3:14 PM
As fresh attacks in eastern Ukraine left 13 government soldiers dead, armed separatists in the Donetsk region visited polling stations, ordering election officials to cease their preparations for Sunday’s general election. Patrick Wells reports from Donetsk.
VIDEO: As fresh attacks in eastern Ukraine leave 13 government soldiers dead, armed separatists in the Donetsk visit polling stations, order election officials to cease preparations for Sunday’s general election. Patrick Wells reports from Donetsk.
The government in Kyiv has pledged to ensure voters in eastern Ukraine will be able to cast ballots in Sunday's presidential election, but with violence escalating and pro-Russian separatists vowing disruption, it is unclear whether authorities will be able to follow through.

For a second day Friday, armed separatists and government-allied forces clashed near the eastern city of Donetsk. The Interfax-Ukraine news agency quoted the Donetsk regional administration as saying one person was killed and nine wounded in the fighting. Semyon Semenchenko, who commands the pro-Ukrainian militia known as the Donbass battalion, said that half of his men had been wounded in the battle and that others had been taken prisoner or killed.

A day earlier separatists ambushed a Ukrainian National Guard checkpoint, killing at least 13 soldiers.

With violence in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk escalating, fears are mounting that voting in the east will be so disrupted that the election will lack legitimacy and contribute to further fracturing of the country.

With separatists threatening to close polling stations and shutter local election commissions, the government is enrolling volunteers to help with security. Even the tax police are being asked to help.

More than 55,000 police officers, national guardsmen and units from the Interior Ministry will help protect polling stations for Sunday's election, Deputy Prosecutor General Mykola Holomsha said.

But foreign election advisers have been frustrated with the Kyiv government's failure to anticipate more security challenges. They fault the government for not drafting early security plans for polling stations and ballot storage facilities, and for failing to provide local officials with adequate protection.

Under federal law the police provide election security, but in the east many police officers have sided with separatists or are unwilling to challenge them. Foreign election advisers had urged the government to give the army a role in securing polling stations.

Moscow vows to support outcome

Speaking Friday at an economic forum in St. Petersburg, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia will respect the outcome of the election and work with the new leadership resulting from the vote. But he added that that he hopes the election will immediately be followed by a suspension of all military actions and the start of a "dialogue."

Putin also blamed the West for the conflict in Ukraine, describing the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych in February as a "coup" backed by the U.S. and European governments, and the current situation in Ukraine as "a full-scale civil war."

Earlier Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov blamed what he called the West's “dangerous megalomania" for triggering the crisis. Addressing a Moscow security conference, Lavrov also said the West was trying to contain Russia using Cold War-era tactics.

But Ukrainian officials say despite signs that the Kremlin is starting to pull back Russian troops massed on the border, Moscow is still helping separatists with arms and men.

"As to the trafficking in weapons, yes, we confirm that this night there was one more attempt to bring, to traffic into the Ukraine, heavy weapons on four trucks from the Russian Federation," said Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, the head of Ukraine's intelligence service, the SBU. "Unfortunately, such attempts are still happening. We estimate that the main threat before Election Day is the illegal trafficking of human beings and weapons."

Nalyvaichenko said that officials have thwarted a separatist attempt at disrupt the vote with a computer virus.

Separatist leaders, who declared independence earlier this month after a controversial referendum vote, have declared Sunday’s election illegal.

Earlier this month, a group of gunmen seized the main election commission office in Donetsk. Recently separatists kidnapped the head of the local election commission in Kramatorsk, a town north of Donetsk — the third election official from there to be abducted. Many local election officials have been threatened, human rights monitors reported.

Officials have said voters will be allowed to switch polling stations in the event of closures and intimidation, but few international observers here expect the vote to go smoothly.

Russian troop drawdown questioned

Meanwhile, Russia's defense ministry said  20 trains and 15 planes full of troops have been moved out of the border area with Ukraine.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday there has been "limited" Russian troop activity near the Ukrainian border that "may suggest some of these forces are preparing to withdraw."

Still, another NATO military official told VOA on Friday that the bulk of the previously deployed Russian forces remain near the border.

"If we see any meaningful, comprehensive and verifiable withdrawal, NATO would welcome it.  This would be a first step from Russia into the right direction," said the official, who spoke to VOA from Brussels on condition of anonymity.

"Any withdrawal does not erase or reverse what has happened in recent months. Russia has violated the trust of the international community by illegally invading Ukraine,” he said. “The security dynamic in Europe has been fundamentally changed.”

Jeff Seldin contributed to this report from the Pentagon.
 

You May Like

Multimedia Obama, Modi Resolve Nuclear Deal Issues

Leaders find resolution on issues of liability of suppliers to India in event of nuclear accident, U.S. demands to track whereabouts of material supplied to country More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Boobs subject from: isn't covered
May 23, 2014 8:34 AM
Why have you not written who destroyed an elderly local woman house by shelling in Semenovka, near Slovyansk, Ukraine, on May 23, 2014?????

In Response

by: John from: Sweden
May 23, 2014 4:59 PM
And what do you think happens when you have Russia-backed terrorists starting a war? What happens is that an elderly woman's house is destroyed. Go tell your friends to go back to Russia and stop killing and terrorizing innocent elderly people in Ukraine.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid