Ukraine votes as fear, war stalk border

2014-05-25 09:22
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Kiev/ Mariupol - Ukrainians were set to give a resounding endorsement to the overthrow of their last elected leader by voting on Sunday for presidential candidates promising close ties with the West in defiance of Russia's Vladimir Putin.

But the absence of over 15% of the electorate, in Russian-annexed Crimea and two eastern regions where fighting with pro-Moscow rebels continued on Saturday, may mar any result - and leave the Kremlin questioning the victor's legitimacy, for all President Putin's new pledge to respect the people's will.

Voting began in most of Ukraine at 08:00 local time (0500 GMT) and will end 12 hours later, when exit polls will indicate a result ahead of an official outcome on Monday. But many voters in the Russian-speaking east will find polling stations shut.

European election monitors largely pulled out of Donetsk region for their own safety, citing a campaign of "terror" by pro-Russian separatists against Ukrainian electoral officials.

Polls make a billionaire confectionery magnate known as the "chocolate king" overwhelming favourite, with a high turnout expected on a warm day. The biggest question is whether Petro Poroshenko can take over 50% to win in a single round.

He was a strong backer of the protests against Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich last winter and has sought a quick victory by warning that new unrest might prevent a second round.

Move away from 'lawlessness'

His closest, if distant, rival is Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister. She seems best placed to contest a runoff in three weeks, but remains a divisive figure to many, more closely linked with the economic failures and corruption that have blighted 23 years of independence.

As Yanukovich's fiercest rival, she may benefit from the fact that few of the 5 million voters in his eastern power base regions of Donetsk and Luhansk may be able to cast ballots for any of the 21 candidates.

Officials say many polling stations will not open for fear of attack and only early on Sunday will they try to distribute ballot papers to those areas where voting may be possible.

Interim Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on Saturday the act of voting would be victory, hand the new president a mandate to forge closer ties with the European Union and move Ukraine away from a "grey zone of lawlessness and dark forces that dream of suffocating us and into ... a place where it is easier to breathe".

Western states backed those who took power when Yanukovich fled to Russia three months ago after street protests triggered by his rejection of a free trade pact with the EU. They hope that a mandate for a new leader can help resolve a confrontation with Russia that has sparked military buildups east and west of Ukraine and raised fears of a new Cold War.

Putin pledged on Saturday to "respect" the people's choice and work with Ukraine's new administration - a conciliatory move during an economic forum at which he had acknowledged that US and EU sanctions over Ukraine were hurting the Russian economy.

Disillusion

But he defended his annexation of Crimea in March as a response to the democratic will of the majority ethnic Russian population there. Kiev and its Western allies accuse Moscow of a propaganda war to sow fear among Russian-speakers in eastern and southern Ukraine of "fascist" Ukrainian nationalists and of supporting rebel forces who have seized many towns in the east.

Two weeks ago, separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk regions ran referendums they said let them break from Kiev and opened a way to possibly following Crimea into union with Russia - though Moscow denies any plan to seize any more Ukrainian territory.

Opinion polls before the last few months of violence showed disillusion with Kiev's politicians in the Russian-speaking, industrial east but limited appetite for outright secession.

Putin played down talk of a return to Cold War with the West and dismissed the idea he was bent on restoring the former USSR, whose collapse he has in the past lamented.

Washington and its EU allies are concerned that while Russia may accept the election result, it may use influence in eastern Ukraine to undermine the new president's authority and keep the country beholden to Moscow. Russian officials have questioned the value of holding the vote when the east is in "civil war".

Read more on:    arseny yatseniuk  |  vladimir putin  |  russia  |  ukraine
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
5 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!

It’s the season to be jolly – so we’ve rounded up some new Joburg hot spots!

 
 

I love summer.24

The craziest deaths of 2014
How to make this a sensual, sexy summer!
This is what South Africans Googled in 2014!
This hilarious song is your new holiday anthem

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is so much going on around you and inside your head. You may want to take your ideas to the next level. Romance may be...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.