News / Europe

Eastern Ukraine Separatists Proceed With Vote

Donetsk Prepares Secession Vote Amid Fears of Violencei
X
Patrick Wells
May 10, 2014 11:13 PM
In eastern Ukraine, organizers of a referendum seeking "independence" from the central government in Kyiv say the vote will go ahead Sunday despite an attack by government forces in the city of Mariupol that left as many as 20 people dead Friday. Patrick Wells reports for VOA from Donetsk, the largest city in eastern Ukraine.

VIDEO: In eastern Ukraine, organizers of a referendum seeking independence from the central government in Kyiv say the vote will go ahead Sunday despite an attack by government forces in the city of Mariupol that left as many as 20 people dead Friday. Patrick Wells reports for VOA from Donetsk.

Patrick Wells
Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say two hastily-organized secession referendums will take place as planned Sunday, despite warnings from Kyiv that the self-rule votes could spell disaster for the Russian-speaking region.

On Saturday, organizers in Donetsk and Luhansk continued preparations, distributing leaflets and posters urging people to vote. Those planning the referendum say Friday's attack by government forces that killed as many as 20 people in the port city of Mariupol will not disrupt the vote.

“We will not let an attack happen. We are not afraid of anyone, this is our Donbass [the region surrounding Donetsk] and we will oppose anyone who comes here," said separatist fighter Igor Banderenko. "We will free this area and then we will go to Slovyansk, Mariupol, Luhansk and release them as well.”

Luhansk's separatist leader, Valery Bolotov, told Russia's Interfax news service he expects a 90 percent voter turnout for Sunday's ballot, which seek approval for so-called sovereign people's republics in the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, the largest city in eastern Ukraine. The vote — organized on an ad hoc basis with no clear controls over ballot papers or voter lists — has been widely criticized by Kyiv and Western capitals.

Separatist leaders say residents of Donetsk and Luhansk are demanding the immediate opportunity to vote on the region's future, despite questions about the legality of the ballots and recent polling showing 70 percent of locals oppose secession.

Addressing international media at a recently assembled electoral commission headquarters, Roman Lyagin displayed a black and white referendum ballot that asks if the voter supports declaration "of self-rule by the Donetsk People's Republic.” It had no special markings to prevent duplication, leaving opening the possibility of massive electoral fraud.

“I might get 15 years in prison for doing this," Lyagin said, explaining that his social beliefs led him to organize the poll and head the electoral commission. "All that I care about here is making peace on my own land. My child lives here. I don't want bloodshed here. How else can I guarantee the legitimacy? I don't know."

Separatist forces claim the referendum is the only hope of keeping the conflict from spiraling out of control. But with doubts about the validity of the ballot, some have expressed concern that it may have exactly the opposite effect.

Story continues below photo gallery:
  • People watch as a seized armored vehicle that was set on fire smolders in the center of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, May 10, 2014.
  • People react as they stand in front of a burning barricade near the city hall in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, May 10, 2014.
  • People walk through a square as black smoke billows from burning tires to prevent government armored personnel carriers from passing through the center of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, May 10, 2014.
  • Election commission worker Vera Pozhidaeva demonstrates the readiness of a polling station for Sunday's referendum in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk, May 10, 2014.
  • Ballot boxes bearing the flag of Donetsk People's Republic are seen at a polling station, in preparation for the upcoming referendum in Donetsk, Ukraine, May 10, 2014.
  • Election commission workers count ballots at a polling station ahead of Sunday's referendum in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk, May 10, 2014.
  • A WWII Soviet flag replica and a portrait of former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin fly above crowds gathered for a religious service in memory of the victims of the trade union building blaze in Odessa, Ukraine, May 10, 2014.
  • Local residents gather for an Orthodox ceremony to mourn the deaths of pro-Russian supporters killed recently in the Black Sea port of Odessa, Ukraine, May 10, 2014.
On Saturday, interim Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov warned secession supporters that independence would be "a step into the abyss for these regions." He also appealed to rebels to join talks on greater autonomy in the east.

Also on Saturday, rebel activists in Donetsk released seven Red Cross workers they had detained late Friday. The separatists had indicated earlier they believed the Red Cross team was engaged in espionage.

Warning for Moscow

Western leaders blame Moscow for encouraging the separatist movement, and Saturday German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande said they would back new economic sanctions against Moscow if the ongoing unrest threatens Ukraine's May 25 presidential election. During a joint press conference Saturday in Germany's Baltic port of Stralsund, the two leaders also called the referendum illegitimate.

Meanwhile, reporters in the southeastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol say Ukrainian security forces have withdrawn to the outskirts of the city, less than a day after attacking a police facility occupied by separatists.

Witnesses say Friday's fighting, described as one of the bloodiest military operations of the secession crisis, left at least seven people dead. Television footage later showed the police headquarters reduced to smoldering rubble.

The French news agency on Saturday described the center of the city of nearly 500,000 residents as "a post-apocalyptic wasteland," with young men building makeshift barricades around charred buildings.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged organizers to delay Sunday's vote; but that recommendation appears to have been rejected, leaving it unclear how or if Moscow will respond should secessionists prevail.

The United States, which does not recognize the annexation, condemned Putin's visit, which Ukraine's Foreign Ministry called a "provocation."

You May Like

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
    Next 
by: Wiktor Protsenko from: Kyiv
May 12, 2014 8:28 AM
In its unannounced war against Ukraine, Russia relies on covert operations which fall squarely within the definition of "international terrorism" under 18 U.S.C. § 2331.
Specifically, armed operatives of Russia, acting under disguise, attempt to influence the policy of Ukrainian government by intimidation or coercion. They also try to affect the conduct of a government by assassinations and kidnapping, taking by force government buildings, police posts and military bases of Ukraine.
This activity is being conducted on large scale and over prolonged time period, despite condemnation by the USA, G-7, NATO, EU and UN.
Please sign the petition urging the White House to officially designate Russia as "State sponsor of terrorism” - http://wh.gov/lwuL9
Such status of country would outlaw business of American companies with Russia. Even considering of the petition by Senate and President of USA creating great inconvenience Russian authorities.


by: Irene from: Moscow
May 11, 2014 4:53 AM
So..what`s bad in federalization? Russia is federation, Germany is federation...I think only federalization can help to Ukraine, because in this case the resources will be evenly distributed across the country and not only concentraited in Kiev.


by: meanbill from: USA
May 11, 2014 12:29 AM
TRUTH BE TOLD... It's only up to the citizens of the pro-Russian eastern Ukraine, (to make their own decisions on if they want to become an independent state), or remain subjects of Ukraine? -- Since Ukraine doesn't have a legitimate democratic government now...
NOBODY has the right to refuse them their right to vote, either for or against seceding from Ukraine -- (BECAUSE?) -- they are the citizens living there, -- (AND?) -- without a legitimate Ukraine President or government, they are free to vote anyway they want.... REALLY


by: gen from: Japan
May 10, 2014 10:26 PM
US sentor's committee should investigate who had ignited protesters in Kiev,before shouting sanctions on Russia and causing annoy Europe.


by: gen from: Japan
May 10, 2014 8:49 PM
Russian are angry like this "American set fire on my neighbour's house.then uncontrollable.Then american began to blame it on the neighbour(Russia) living next to the house on which he set fire.Moreover,to forced to make me admit,american shouts sanction,sanction,sanction.What did he say?".


by: Whatever from: Moscow
May 10, 2014 8:15 PM
These Ukrainian Nazis are the bad guys, they're ones that put out the bogus fliers requiring Jews to register and framing the Pro-Russians by blaming them for the fliers.

See the real face of these Ukrainians.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfN0KNIq-rw


by: gen from: Japan
May 10, 2014 8:14 PM
Pro russian are angry with right sectors killing unarmed protesters in maiden square of kiev. Pro russian are angry with the government in kiev which are composed of such sector's top.So they don't want to be controled by kiev.
Actually Ukraine kiev's army killed unarmed pro russian protester who just marched with no arm and normal wear.


by: Koty Dryburp from: Germany
May 10, 2014 7:58 PM
In the United States, presidential candidates flip-flop, kiss babies for photo ops, and stick pretty close to the establishment script.

In Ukraine it is a different story. Presidential candidates there dress up in black paramilitary uniforms and interrogate separatist leaders stripped down to their undies. Photos are taken and posted on Twitter for adoring fans back in Kyiv.

The man stripped down is Igor Khakimzyanov, commander of the Donetsk People’s Republic Army. The man in the fashionable blackshirt uniform is Verkhovna Rada member Oleh Lyashko. He is known for advocating the execution of Ukrainians in Crimea who voted to secede from the country after a coup government rife with fascists took over with the blessing of the U.S. State Department.

No word on Khakimzyanov’s fate or if Lyashko and his comrades had help rounding up with opposition now that the CIA and FBI are running the effort to eliminate the opposition.


by: gen from: Japan
May 10, 2014 7:52 PM
Unarmed pro russian protesters stil were killed by Ukraine army.Why US and EU demand the government in kiev stop such a operation?
Why US donate taxpayer's money to killing fields? Why US put a sanction on the government? They use west and US supports for killing human.


by: Jojo from: Mexico
May 10, 2014 4:07 PM
When die "the land of the free" start objecting to self-determination? How many Americans really know how far away the Ukraine is? And how would Americans feel--should Mexico and Guatemala get into an argument--if Russia were to intervene?

Comments page of 2
    Next 

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid