News / Europe

    Frustrations Grow as Ukranians Ready for Presidential Vote

    A pro-Russian fighter takes a photo on his cell phone of a burning cafe after impact of a mortar bomb, during fighting between Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russian militants at a checkpoint near the major highway which links Kharkiv, outside Slovya
    A pro-Russian fighter takes a photo on his cell phone of a burning cafe after impact of a mortar bomb, during fighting between Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russian militants at a checkpoint near the major highway which links Kharkiv, outside Slovya
    As Ukrainians brace themselves for Sunday’s presidential election, frustrations are growing.
     
    At least 21 have been killed since Thursday in escalating violence in east Ukraine.
     
    And there are fears that the election may not mark the end of the months-long Ukraine crisis but the start of just another stage in the conflict.
     
    Odessa-native and activist Lisa Smith – she kept the family name of an ex-American husband – said she is frightened.
     
    “I am very worried that a war will start,” she said, speaking just yards from where she was on February 20 when more than 50 protesters of the old government were gunned down by snipers.
     
    The 23-year-old documentary-maker said she still hasn’t recovered from the turmoil and bloodshed she witnessed in Kyiv’s Independence Square, or Maiden, during the weeks-long effort to topple ex-President Viktor Yanukovych.
     
    And she frets that nothing might change after the election.
     
    “My other big fear is that the person who gets elected will be the same as our last president – a person who steals everything from the country,” she said. “I think we need reform in every ministry.”
     
    Voters ready


    Ukrainians appear eager to vote and replace an interim government that is widely unpopular and seen by many in the east and south as illegitimate.
     
    Pollsters expect at least a 70 percent turnout.
     
    The latest opinion survey this week suggests that election-front-runner Petro Poroshenko, a pro-Western billionaire nicknamed the “chocolate king” for his candy empire, is widening his lead over second-placed Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister.
     
    The poll shows Poroshenko getting 44 per cent support among those planning to vote and Tymoshenko just 8 per cent.
     
    Polling data is prompting media commentators to wonder if the businessman and former minister will secure 50 percent of the vote on Sunday, making a second round next month unnecessary.
     
    Tymoshenko is seen as a throwback to a graft-filled past that Maiden activists want to leave behind.
     
    “The Yanukovych regime was an alliance of corrupt politicians and oligarchs,” said Vadim Baranski, an advertising executive, who took time off work to protest through the winter at Maiden.
     
    Taking coffee in a café in Pushkinskaya Street in central Kyiv, the 32-year-old looks up at the warm spring sun and smiles ruefully at the cold he endured in mid-winter on the barricades in the Maiden. He said he doesn’t want that struggle to be wasted and remains suspicious of the “chocolate king.”
     
    “Poroshenko might not be too bad but Kyiv has turned to oligarchs to help them against the eastern separatists,” he said, referring among others to Ukraine’s richest oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov, the coal and steel magnate. Akhmetov last week threw his weight behind the pro-unity cause and urged his workers in east Ukraine to see off separatists.
     
    Continuing corruption remains the biggest fear of voters.
     
    In an opinion poll conducted for the U.S. non-profit the International Foundation for Electoral Systems in May, those surveyed were highly pessimistic that the engrained graft linking politics and business could be overcome.
     
    Fifty-six percent said most Ukrainians looked at corruption as a fact of life in the country and more than 90 percent said they have had to pay a bribe to the police and the courts.

    Keen for change

    For the young in Kyiv as they prepare for the polls, there is a determination not to let the Maiden sacrifices be in vain. They want new faces.
     
    Activists have been campaigning for long-shot candidate physician Olga Bogomolets, who was nicknamed the “White Angel” during the uprising because of her role treating injured protesters.
     
    But the blond-haired doctor will likely be an also-ran when the count comes in.
     
    With Poroshenko having served in governments before, his practical skills are what appear to be driving his surge in the opinion polls.
     
    For some, he is at least a fresher face than Tymoshenko.
     
    If the confectionary magnate doesn’t want to face a Maiden backlash, if elected he will have to move fast on reforms, starting with the police and the judges.
     
    “The police who were shooting us and beating us at Maiden are still working,” activist Smith said. “They understand that if reform comes, they will end up in prison and they will try with the old politicians to stop change.”

    You May Like

    UN Observes International Day of Peacekeepers

    The U.N. honors 3,400 peacekeepers killed since first mission in 1948

    Video Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora