[WSF-Discuss] Ukraine Update: Presidential Poll

Sukla Sen sukla.sen at gmail.com
Sun May 25 13:21:17 CDT 2014


Billionaire Poroshenko declares victory in Ukraine
By *Laura Smith-Spark, Nick Paton Walsh *and* Radina Gigova*, CNN
May 25, 2014 -- Updated 1754 GMT (0154 HKT)

*Donetsk, Ukraine (CNN)* -- Billionaire Petro Poroshenko declared victory
Sunday in Ukraine's presidential election, following preliminary exit polls
that suggested he got 56% of the vote.

His closest challenger, former Ukrainian prime minister and leader of the
Batkivshchyna party Yulia Tymoshenko, conceded the election after exit
polls showed her with 13% of the vote.

Poroshenko, a candy tycoon known as the "Chocolate
also a seasoned politician.

The election took place Sunday despite a recent wave of deadly violence in
the East and threats by pro-Russia separatists to prevent citizens from
casting their ballots.

The unrest has centered in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where
separatists have claimed independence following a disputed referendum
earlier this month -- and many there did not get to cast ballots.

As of 3 p.m. (8 a.m. ET), some 528 polling sites out of 2,430 were open in
the Donetsk region, the regional administration said. Local officials said
there was 11.8% turnout at these polling stations.

Outside the country's restive East, voting was progressing more normally.

The Central Election Commission put voter turnout at nearly 38% as of 3
p.m. local time, not including the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Ukraine's
official Ukrinform news agency reported.

In the city of Donetsk, the regional capital where pro-Russia militias are
concentrated, there are no open polling stations, local officials said

A CNN team driving through the city Sunday morning was not able to see a
single polling station in operation. However, there were signs some voters
were trying to go to polling stations in areas west and south of the city.

*Russian 'volunteers' in Donets**k*

A large separatist rally was held in a central Donetsk city square around
lunchtime. The protesters, who chanted pro-Russia slogans as they were
addressed by separatist leaders, were joined by a substantial number of
militants on trucks, some firing guns into the air.

On the back of some of the trucks were armed men who appeared to be
Chechen. Two told a CNN team they were from the Chechen capital, Grozny,
and one indicated that he was formerly a policemen in Chechnya and was in
Donetsk to serve the Russian Federation.

The men*,* who as Chechens are Russian citizens, said they were there as
"volunteers." But if their accounts were true, their presence in Donetsk
would appear to indicate some kind of acquiescence by the Russian
government at the least.

Increasing violence in the East has led the authorities in Kiev to accuse
Russia, which they say is backing the armed separatists, of seeking to
disrupt the vote. Russia denies having direct influence over the militants,
andRussian President Vladimir
said he will respect the Ukrainians' choice.

Amid heightened tensions, instances of intimidation in eastern Ukraine
appear widespread.

Residents of Ukraine's southeastern city of Mariupol saw new billboards on
the streets Sunday urging them not to cast their ballots. The billboards
were not at those locations the night before, residents said.

Also in Mariupol, people talked on social media about being asked by local
Russia supporters to boycott the election. The city is one of several where
deadly clashes have erupted in recent weeks.

The self-declared mayor of rebel stronghold Slovyansk, Vyacheslav
Ponomaryov, has said that anyone who tries to vote there will be arrested.

*Italian journalist kille**d*

An Italian journalist was killed Saturday near the flashpoint town, the
Italian Foreign Ministry announced Sunday. The man, named as Andrea
Rocchelli, was killed along with a Russian citizen, the ministry said.
Reports suggested there had been mortar fire in the Slovyansk area.

Voters are choosing a successor to ousted pro-Moscow President Viktor
Yanukovych in a country torn apart by Russia's takeover of Ukraine's Crimea
peninsula and bloody conflict with pro-Russia factions.

Besides the presidential race, candidates are also running in municipal
elections in some cities.

Ukraine's acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said he would cast his
ballot in the capital, Kiev, on Sunday morning.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has deployed 900
observers for the election -- the largest such mission in its history.

Amid the escalating tensions, claim and counterclaim have swirled.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov's spokeswoman, Natalia Stativko, told CNN
that a claim on Avakov's website -- that the Electoral Commission's
electronic vote counting system had been destroyed -- was fake. She said
the website had been hacked.

The Prosecutor General's Office said Saturday it was investigating 83 cases
of alleged interference in the election process in the Luhansk and Donetsk

On Sunday, an adviser to the official Donetsk governor, Sergey Taruta, said
a group of 40 armed men encircled and entered the Hotel Victoria, where the
governor's office is temporary located. The men were dressed alike and had
automatic weapons, said the adviser, Vasyl Azbuzov.

They were looking for the governor, who was voting in Mariupol at that
time, but left after taking a list of the hotel's guests.

Ukraine's 'Chocolate King' aims for top

*Yatsenyuk: You can't intimidate us*

Whoever wins the presidency will face the challenge of reuniting a country
that is deeply divided and in dire economic straits.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Saturday urged all Ukrainians to go to
the polls, saying they would "prove to the whole world, and first of all to
ourselves, that it is not possible to intimidate us, that we are going to
decide ourselves how to rebuild our home and how to work in it."

Voters will be choosing a president to lead a country "for whose freedom,
prosperity, European future, the Ukrainians are paying the highest price --
the price of their own lives," he said.

Despite the troubles in eastern Ukraine, he said, the vote would represent
the "free and unobstructed choice" of the whole nation.

"And I would like to assure those our compatriots in Donetsk and Luhansk
regions, who will be prevented from coming to the polling stations by the
war waged against Ukraine: The criminals don't have much time left to
terrorize your land," he added.

According to protesters speaking Saturday outside the headquarters of the
self-declared "Donetsk People's Republic," as well as the body's Twitter
account, Donetsk and Luhansk have united to form a new separatist republic
called "Novorossiya."

The government in Kiev, which launched an "anti-terrorist operation"
against the separatists, has so far been unable to dislodge them from the
towns and cities they hold.

*Russian recognition*

Putin on Friday told an economic forum in St. Petersburg that he would
respect the will of Ukraine's voters in Sunday's election.

But he reiterated Russia's assertion that according to Ukraine's
Constitution, Yanukovych -- who was ousted in February following months of
street protests -- remains the nation's legitimate president.

Putin also questioned whether the election should be held now, given the
violence in eastern Ukraine.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksey Meshkov said Friday that Russia
would decide whether or not to recognize the Ukraine vote only after it
takes place, according to state media.

U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently
said that disruption of the Ukraine vote by Russia would bring further
sanctions targeting specific sectors of the Russian economy.


Vladimir Putin vows to respect Ukraine election resultRussian leader warns
country has slipped into civil war amid continued fighting in east, but
says Moscow will work with whoever comes to power in Sunday vote
Speaking at the annual St Petersburg Economic Forum, Vladimir Putin said
Moscow will work with whoever comes to power in Sunday vote  Photo: GETTY

By Roland Oliphant, Kiev

7:07PM BST 23 May 2014

Vladimir Putin warned on Friday that Ukraine has plunged into "full scale
civil war," but pledged to "respect" the outcome of the country's
presidential elections this Sunday.

Mr Putin's comments, which will be taken as signal of a thaw in fraught
relations between Moscow and Kiev, came as continued fighting between
pro-Russian rebels and pro-government militias claimed at least two more

Speaking at the annual St Petersburg Economic Forum, Mr Putin said that
Moscow would be willing to work with whoever comes to power in Sunday's

"We understand that the people of Ukraine want their country to emerge from
this crisis. We will treat their choice with respect," he said.

Previously Russian officials had suggested Moscow would refuse to recognise
the vote.

Ukraine has been run by an interim government appointed by parliament since
former president Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown on February 22.

Polls suggest a landslide victory for Petro Poroshenko, a chocolate tycoon
who was an early backer of the Maidan protest movement that led to the

Mr Putin's comments appear to further isolate pro-Russian rebels fighting
to carve out independent republics in the east of the country.

Russia endorsed a referendum on independence organised by separatists
earlier this month, but Mr Putin has not responded to repeated appeals from
rebel leaders to send Russian "peacekeepers" and Crimean-style unification
with Russia.

Tensions are mounting in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the run up to
Sunday's poll, which rebel leaders have said they will not allow to take
place, calling it "undemocratic" and "an election for a neighbouring
state". At least two people died when rival militia groups clashed in the
Donetsk region on Friday morning.

The three hour firefight in the village of Karlovka, 16 miles west of
Donetsk, appears to have erupted when a group from the Donbass Battalion, a
pro-Ukrainian militia unaffiliated with official government forces, ran
into an ambush at a rebel road checkpoint.
Peace Is Doable
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