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

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    South Korea Says North Korea Moving Closer to Rocket Launch

    In phone call, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree that Pyongyang's move would be 'provocative'

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.