News / Europe

Ukraine Separatists Plan to Disrupt Presidential Poll

FILE - Self-styled governor of Luhansk region Valery Bolotov (C) delivers a speech during a rally to mark and celebrate the announcement of the results of the referendum on the status of Luhansk region in Luhansk, May 12, 2014.
FILE - Self-styled governor of Luhansk region Valery Bolotov (C) delivers a speech during a rally to mark and celebrate the announcement of the results of the referendum on the status of Luhansk region in Luhansk, May 12, 2014.
Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine are planning to disrupt the country’s presidential election scheduled for May 25, but Ukrainian officials maintain that the polls will be held.
 
For the separatists, it was easy. Just nine gunmen marched Wednesday into Donetsk’s main election commission office and declared they were seizing it. With the exception of Ukrainian military barracks, separatist fighters are able to grab most buildings they want in Donetsk province.
 
The police will not stop them; many apparently support the separatists. Others are waiting to see whether the separatists or the government in Kyiv will prevail in the tug of war for Donetsk and its neighbor, Luhansk. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military is stretched thin.
 
Luhansk separatist leader Valery Bolotov said on the eve of last weekend's secession referendum that people in east Ukraine do not want to participate in presidential elections.
 
The Kyiv government and Western powers have denounced the referendums on secession in Donetsk and Luhansk.
 
Separatist leaders have insisted they will stop election voting from taking place in the east of the country.

For Kyiv, the presidential election is crucial. It will be the first since pro-Western protesters ousted the Moscow-backed government of Donetsk native Viktor Yanukovych, and it represents a chance to stop the fracturing of the country.
 
Opinion polls indicate the interim government is unpopular across Ukraine.

In one survey, more than half of respondents across the east said they thought it was an illegitimate administration. The gunmen who marched into the election commission office ordered all workers to leave, saying the election was illegal.
 
Serhiy Taruta, the official regional governor, said Kyiv is not losing control of Donetsk oblast, a province with 4.3 million people - 10 percent of Ukraine’s population - and much of its heavy industry.
 
Taruta said most institutions, offices and factories across Donetsk are functioning normally and that plans to decentralize power will eventually help to weaken the separatist insurgency.
 
Ukrainian officials insist the election will proceed, except in the flashpoint town of Slovyansk, a hundred kilometers north of Donetsk. That town is totally controlled by the separatists. There are plans for its residents to vote in the neighboring and larger town of Kramatorsk.
 
But on Wednesday, separatists kidnapped the head of the local election commission there - the third election official from the town to be abducted this month.
 
Election security is likely to pose an increasing challenge to the government.

Foreign election advisers expressed alarm weeks ago, telling VOA that the government was not anticipating the problems and had not drawn up security plans for the polling stations or for local officials tasked with overseeing the voting.
 
The advisers spoke on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to speak to media. They are anxious also about the security of storage facilities for the ballot papers.
 
Recent opinion surveys suggest 85 percent of Ukrainians will turn out to vote on May 25 in what the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine has described as "the most important election in the history of independent Ukraine.”
 
But if the election fails in the east of the country, it may only aggravate the crisis.

You May Like

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Russia’s Prosecutor General to Review Legality of Baltics Independence

Move, announced Tuesday, has alarmed Baltic States and strained even further their increasingly tense ties with Moscow More

US Urged to Keep Up Pressure on Cuba Rights

Communist government continues to hold dozens of political prisoners, tightly restricts freedom of expression, uses threats, intimidation to discourage critics, according to activist groups More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs