Tuesday, March 15, 2022

IN THE MIDST OF A COUP - 2014: Ukrainians Apprehensive About Presidential Vote During Civil War

Source: NDTV

Published: May 24, 2014

By: Agence France-Presse

Donetsk: "We're in a war situation," says one of the deliverymen bringing ballot papers in under armed guard to a polling station in the eastern Ukrainian town of Dobropillya.

"There is more security this time," he adds.

Ukraine goes to the polls Sunday to elect a new president, but pro-Russian separatists have threatened to disrupt the vote in towns and cities they control in the industrial east.

"We intend to make sure that voting does not take place here on our territory. If necessary we will revert to the use of force," said Denis Pushilin, a top leader of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic.

"We have the right to do so because our countrymen are dying here every day," he told reporters.

The Kiev authorities have warned they may not be able to ensure voting takes place across the east, where there are already numerous reports of militants intimidating election workers and seizing polling stations.

Security concerns have also been heightened after a deadly surge in violence this week, with well over two dozen people - perhaps many more - killed in fighting between Ukrainian forces and the rebels.

In Dobropillya, the ballot papers arrived in a funeral van along with a security guard carrying an AK-47 rifle and were carried into the town hall basement by local election workers.

"The elections will definitely take place here," said Yelena Ganicheva, head of the election commission in Dopropillya, which lies some 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Donetsk and is under Kiev's control.

In a nearby village five members of the local commission sliced open the brown paper packaging and counted out ballot papers in an office of the Ukrainian cultural centre that will serve as the polling station.

"Everything is nearly ready and we just have to organise some transport for the elderly people," said polling station head Tetyana Dorozhkevich.

Just a few kilometres away Ukrainian soldiers lounged behind sandbags at a checkpoint where two tanks stood.

"We hope that everything will go ok," said Dorozhkevich. "Whatever the situation is around us we hope we can have legally elected authorities who can return things to normal."

Around the district covering some 80 polling stations almost all are planning to operate, except in separatist-controlled Druzhkivka where the election commission was disbanded.

'Vote will not happen'

But in the town of Makiivka, just to the east of Donetsk, polling station head Tetyana Fyodorovna said preparations had been halted after armed men seized the district election commission on Friday.

"We were getting ready for the vote but now the elections are not going to happen here," she told AFP by phone.

In the main city of Donetsk and neighbouring towns in the heart of eastern Ukraine's coal and steel industry, most of the campaign posters are for Mykhailo Dobkin, a hardliner standing for the Regions Party of ousted pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych.

But quite often the posters are vandalised, splattered with mud or the eyes of the candidates torn out.

There were also few signs of Donetsk itself gearing up for elections, with a search across the city finding no polling station ready to welcome voters Sunday morning.

"We haven't seen anyone," said a janitor at one Donetsk school that should have been a polling station. "There are no voting lists, no papers, no ballot boxes, nothing."

In another reflection of the tensions, armed rebels besieged a Donetsk hospital Saturday in an apparent attempt to take injured members of a Ukrainian defence unit to use in a prisoner swap.

"Look around us, the world has become crazy," said one staff member taking a cigarette break outside the four-storey building.

"This is a hospital and we are working while surrounded by armed men."

Several members of a pro-Kiev volunteer defence unit attached to the Ukrainian military are being treated at the hospital after a fierce gun battle on Friday that left at least seven men dead.

Read more at: NDTV.com
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