News / Europe

    Vote for Sovereignty in Eastern Ukraine Brings Voter Fraud Concerns

    Voting in central Donetsk, Ukraine, May 11, 2014. (Jamie Dettmer/VOA)
    Voting in central Donetsk, Ukraine, May 11, 2014. (Jamie Dettmer/VOA)
    Eastern Ukrainians began voting early Sunday in a referendum on secession, but claims quickly mounted of multiple voting.

    Pro-unity activists posted a video showing how easy it was to vote more than once.

    The head of the separatists’ election commission, Roman Lyagin, told VOA multiple voting was impossible because people had to queue for about a half-hour to vote - therefore no other precautions were necessary.

    Additional details of the election process, provided by Lyagin, could be cause to question the integrity of the vote.

    Lyagin told VOA that the separatists have been working off a 2012 electoral database, but it is incomplete and they have been adding names. He also said that anyone who turns up at a polling station and is not on the list is allowed to vote.

    Ballot papers in the referendum were also printed without security provisions, voter registration was patchy and there was confusion over what the vote was for.

    Analysts said the referendum does not meet international standards and is open to fraud.

    What the vote means

    Voters in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, about 15 percent of the Ukrainian population, cast ballots on whether they approved of independence. But it was unclear whether that meant more autonomy within Ukraine, creation of an independent state or possibly an attempt by the Russian-speaking regions to join Russia.

    Most voters said they were voting for a break from Ukraine because of the recent military campaign by Kyiv against Pro-Russian separatists. Other voters cited an expectation for a better life if their region is annexed by Russia.

    In Mariupol, scene of fierce fighting last week, there were only eight polling centers for a half-million people. Queues grew to hundreds of meters long, with spirits high as one center overflowed and ballot boxes were brought onto the street, Reuters reported.

    The interim government in Kyiv has denounced the referendum as illegal and a sham.  Only one question is on the ballot: Should the regions form independent republics?   Most residents against secession said they won't cast a vote.
     
    A woman checks documents of a Ukrainian man before issuing him a paper ballot in Moscow, Russia, May 11, 2014. Many Ukrainians living in Moscow came to vote as well.A woman checks documents of a Ukrainian man before issuing him a paper ballot in Moscow, Russia, May 11, 2014. Many Ukrainians living in Moscow came to vote as well.
    x
    A woman checks documents of a Ukrainian man before issuing him a paper ballot in Moscow, Russia, May 11, 2014. Many Ukrainians living in Moscow came to vote as well.
    A woman checks documents of a Ukrainian man before issuing him a paper ballot in Moscow, Russia, May 11, 2014. Many Ukrainians living in Moscow came to vote as well.

    But those who did file into polling stations said the recent violence in the east was reason enough to secede.

    There is deep anger toward the interim government for its military campaign aimed at clearing out armed separatists from the dozens of government buildings they have seized in towns across the region.

    The deaths of at least 42 people in Odessa after clashes and a fire on May 2 and about 20 in Mariupol after similar fighting this past Friday are figuring prominently in the minds of the voters.
     
    "I voted today because I believe after what happened in Odessa and Mariupol, the unity in Ukraine is impossible and that it is better to secede," said translator Alec, 23.

    Voting is due to end in the hastily arranged referendum in 53 locations at 10 p.m. local time (1900 UTC) and the rebels hope to have the ballots counted by Monday afternoon, although its outcome will not be widely recognized internationally or by Kyiv.

    With several hours of polling to go, Russian news agencies were already reporting a turnout of more than 75 percent, although a separatist spokesman in Luhansk said troops had prevented the movement of ballot papers in several areas.

    Kyiv's slow response

    The government in Kyiv has been caught in a Catch-22 the past few weeks. By initially failing to take action against armed, Moscow-backed separatists, the government allowed the separatists to expand their reach. Then, when the central authorities later intervened, the clashes inflamed local anger.
     
    Maria, 81, angry with Kyiv for anti-separatist campaign, May11, 2014 (Jamie Dettmer/VOA)Maria, 81, angry with Kyiv for anti-separatist campaign, May11, 2014 (Jamie Dettmer/VOA)
    x
    Maria, 81, angry with Kyiv for anti-separatist campaign, May11, 2014 (Jamie Dettmer/VOA)
    Maria, 81, angry with Kyiv for anti-separatist campaign, May11, 2014 (Jamie Dettmer/VOA)

    Maria, an 81-year-old grandmother, breaks down in tears after voting in a polling station in Pushkin Boulevard in central Donetsk. She says the Kyiv government consists of bandits and they are attacking people and burning them out.
     
    She hasn't been able to sleep. Born in the Russian city of Smolensk, she has lived in Donetsk for 60 years and says she wants a normal life for her children and grandchildren.
     
    Much of the fear about Kyiv can be linked to the output from Kremlin-controlled media outlets, which played up the off-and-on so-called "anti-terrorist" operations launched by Kyiv. This strategy has linked the Kyiv government's attempts to regain control in the public mind with the reprisal raids mounted during the Second World War by the Nazis.

    Analysts say Kyiv has not helped to dispel that impression, pursing hit-and-run tactics that deny little territory to armed and club-wielding separatists but leave local residents fearful.

    And some violence has marred the voting.

    On the eastern outskirts of Mariupol, a little over an hour after polls opened, soldiers from Kyiv seized what they said were falsified ballot papers, marked with "yes" votes, and detained two men. They refused to hand the men over to policemen who came to take them away, saying they did not trust them. Instead they waited for state security officers to interview and arrest them.

    Around 200 kilometers north, clashes broke out around a television tower on the edge of the rebel stronghold of Slovyansk shortly before people began making their way through barricades of felled trees, tires and machinery to vote.

    Election fraud possible

    Voting appeared brisk, but analysts said the referendum is open to fraud. The vote, organized on an ad hoc basis with no clear controls over ballot papers or voter lists, has been widely criticized in Kyiv and in Western capitals.

    No election monitors have been sent from foreign countries. And, analysts worry about the integrity of a vote being held while separatist intimidation and abductions are going on.

    Most voters in Donetsk and Luhansk say they hope that if the referendum approves the regions' status as independent republics, Russia will quickly agree to annex them.

    While one separatist leader said the region would form its own state bodies and military after the referendum, formalizing a split that began with the armed takeover of state buildings in a dozen eastern towns last month.
     
    Another said the vote would not change the region's status, but simply show that the East wanted to decide its own fate, whether in Ukraine, on its own or as part of Russia.

     "All military troops on our territory after the official announcement of referendum results will be considered illegal and declared occupiers,'' said Denis Pushilin, a leader of the self-styled Donetsk republic said, according to an Interfax report. "It is necessary to form state bodies and military authorities as soon as possible."
      
    People stand in a line to enter a polling station and to take part in the referendum on the status of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, May 11, 2014.People stand in a line to enter a polling station and to take part in the referendum on the status of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, May 11, 2014.
    x
    People stand in a line to enter a polling station and to take part in the referendum on the status of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, May 11, 2014.
    People stand in a line to enter a polling station and to take part in the referendum on the status of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, May 11, 2014.

    Interim Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov has warned secession supporters that independence for the regions would be "a step into the abyss." He has appealed to the rebels to join talks on greater autonomy in the east.

    US will not recognize results

    Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said late Saturday the U.S. will not recognize the results. She said the polls "violate international law and the territorial integrity of Ukraine."

    Psaki said the U.S. is "disappointed" that Russia has not used its influence in the region to postpone the poll, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin's suggestion last week to delay the vote and his claim that Russian forces were pulling back from the Ukrainian border.

    Instead, Psaki said, the U.S. does not have any indication the Russian military is moving away from the border. She said Russian state media continue to "strongly back" the referendums "with no mention of Putin's call for postponement."  

    Western leaders blame Moscow for encouraging the separatist movement. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande said Saturday they would back new economic sanctions against Moscow if the ongoing unrest threatens Ukraine's May 25 presidential election.

    Some modest measures may come as soon as Monday, limited by the Europe Union's reluctance to upset trade ties with Russia.

    Richard Stengel, of the U.S. Department of State, will travel to Kyiv, Ukraine; Riga, Latvia; and Brussels, Belgium, beginning May 12-16.

    Under Secretary Stengel will use his trip to stress the need for greater regional engagement to support Ukraine’s upcoming May 25 elections, push back against efforts to delegitimize them and ensure that all Ukrainians are given the chance to decide their future for themselves.

    Additional information was provided by AFP, Reuters, AP.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
     Previous    
    by: carl frazier from: USA
    May 11, 2014 10:53 AM
    I know it is too much to expect that Ukrainian citizens in the
    "eastern areas" will be worse off economically in the long run..
    Once economic sanctions hammer Moscow into depression,
    Putin or his successor will have to decide who among (his)
    countrymen to keep feeding, eastern Ukrainians or Moscow.
    All of Ukraine's younger generation should fully understand that
    they will feel the brunt of Putin's choice of being on the wrong side
    of history … Maybe, Ukraine should be a DMZ between Russia
    and the EU ? Allow Ukraine to have a strong local police force..
    to maintain law and order..No NATO alliance ….No Russian Troops? , A true buffer zone whereby east and west can freely
    blend , mingle….work together without the threat of any type of
    agression….
    In Response

    by: Mark from: Virginia
    May 11, 2014 2:23 PM
    ...and equally ignored by both Europe and Russia if it is not in the best interest of either side, the Ukrainians will suffer, and suffer terribly.
    We are talking about a people who distrust each other and despise each other within the same borders of one country over politics and spheres of influence. Such a move as yours will only isolate Ukraine further and continue the bloodshed there.
    In Response

    by: Arthur Stanstead from: London
    May 11, 2014 1:01 PM
    If this is your strongest argument against these regions joining Russia it seems more of an endorsement than a warning. It is a fantasy to believe that the Ukraine could be stable as a unified nation, or could be unaligned with both Russia and the EU. The US will foment discord and strife and will pressure its lap dogs in the EU to pressure, intimidate and bribe the Ukraine to join in an alliance with the US/EU, and Russians living in the country will exert their right to align with Moscow.

    by: ghostbusters26 from: usa
    May 11, 2014 9:32 AM
    So it may not be the best organized vote considering the circumstances, it is the will of the people. They don't expect the May 25 ballot to provide any candidates they want to vote for. ave seen film on the Right Sector, they are scary and most likely easy to lead into Nazi like violence. I think they are will organized and have been brewing their hatred for immigrants and the like for a while and I think governments are intimidated by them and to some degree infiltrated by them and are afraid or unable to do anything about it, my assessment includes Angela Merkel. Also, the oil baron have their sights on Ukraine oil and also crippling Russia in the energy market, those are the real reasons for all the Western hostility, unwillingness to negociate and work with Russia
    In Response

    by: Sergei
    May 11, 2014 11:25 PM
    Evidence for all these "assessments"?
    How do you know this is the "will of the people"?

    You mean the way the Crimean referendum was the will of the 15% of the people who voted for annexation?

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/05/06/russian-government-agency-reveals-fraudulent-nature-of-the-crimean-referendum-results/
    Comments page of 2
     Previous    

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora