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

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens 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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs