News / Europe

Ukrainians Express Doubts Over Sunday's Referendum

Ukrainians Express Doubts Over Sunday's Referendumi
X
Patrick Wells
May 09, 2014 4:27 PM
Despite calls from Russian President Vladimir Putin to postpone, leaders of the Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine say they will press ahead with a referendum Sunday to decide the region’s future. Recent opinion polls indicate that the majority of people in the region wish to stay in Ukraine, but with more regional autonomy. But in a current climate of fear and intimidation, there are doubts about whether the vote can be legitimate. Patrick Wells reports from Donetsk, Ukraine.
Patrick Wells
— Despite calls from Russian President Vladimir Putin to postpone, leaders of the Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine say they will press ahead with a referendum Sunday to decide the region’s future.

Recent opinion polls indicate that the majority of people in the region wish to stay in Ukraine, but with more regional autonomy. But in a current climate of fear and intimidation, there are doubts about whether the vote can be legitimate.
 
May 9 is victory day in the states of the former Soviet Union, a celebration of the Red Army’s final triumph over Nazi Germany in 1945. Celebrations went off more or less as normal, but this year tensions hang over a region that may now be on the cusp of a new war with itself.
 
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (C) reviews the troops during the Victory Day parade in Moscow's Red Square.
  • Russian World War II veteran Alexey Samokhin (C), 89, carries a red flag as he leads a procession during the Victory Day celebration in Divnogorsk, near Russia's Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk.
  • Russian soldiers march during the Victory Day Parade, which commemorates the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany in Moscow.
  • Russian military planes fly above the Kremlin, with the Ivan the Great Bell Tower seen in the foreground, during the Victory Day parade in Moscow's Red Square.
  • Russian military aircraft trail smoke in the colors of the Russian tricolor above the Monument to Minin and Pozharsky during the Victory Day Parade in Moscow's Red Square.
  • Russian honor guard troopers ride during a Victory Day parade at the Red Square in Moscow.
  • Local residents carry a giant Russian flag as they march through the city after the Victory Day military parade in Sevastopol, Crimea.
  • Russia's President Vladimir Putin (front L) and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (C) watch the Victory Day parade in Moscow's Red Square.
  • A Russian serviceman aboard a tank salutes during the Victory Day parade in Moscow's Red Square.
Thursday, rain lashed Donetsk as news reached pro-Russian separatists that Russian President Vladimir Putin had urged them to postpone a referendum on the region’s future.
 
Despite warnings from the West that the vote could spark a wider civil war, leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said that war had already begun, and that the vote was the only hope of stopping it.

They also said Putin’s remarks had been taken out of context.
 
“Nothing runs totally smoothly, yesterday that was just a trick of some editor that cut just a piece of the whole speech of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin," said Vladimir Makovich, the spokesman of the Donetsk People's Republic.
 
On the barricades outside the occupied regional administration building, pro-Russian activists sheltered in grubby tents. Many of these men are former industrial workers whose families fought in the Second World War.

They said their region sends too much of its money to Kyiv and that they were determined that the referendum would go ahead.
 
“The thing is that the referendum and the Donetsk Republic is the free will of our people, not Vladimir Putin’s," said Valeriy, a Russian separatist. "He doesn't have any influence over us yet. This is not part of his country yet and he is nobody here, just an ally."
 
There was also speculation yesterday that Putin’s call to postpone the poll was designed to allow Russia to avoid further sanctions.
 
“I would say like this, he is a clever person, it wasn't for nothing that he was in the KGB. And I don't think he will let any mistakes occur," said Valeriy.
 
Despite the storm of pro-Russian rhetoric being whipped up by the separatists, recent opinion polls say the majority of people here still want to stay with Ukraine, although with greater regional autonomy.
 
Local businessman Ievgen Kalitvientsev says he only knows four people in his entire neighborhood who support the pro-Russian separatists, but the majority are terrified of speaking out.
 
“They’re all aggressive, those pro-Russian guys, it’s pretty scary, we are all afraid," said Kalitvientsev. "I’m trying to protect my children. For a couple of days I haven’t let them go to school."
 
What will happen after Sunday's referendum is still anyone’s guess, but in the current climate of fear and intimidation, serious questions remain about how legitimate it can be.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Sergei
May 10, 2014 3:54 AM
Of course it won't be legitimate. The Crimea referendum was a farce; only 15% of Crimeans voted for annexation, as the Russians accidentally posted on their own sites.

In Response

by: Dmitry from: RF,Moscow
May 11, 2014 1:59 AM
Sergei, no doubt only these 15 % were present at the last VD parade in Sevastopol, where people flooded the streets and chanted 'Victory' to show their disapproval of the situation

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid