Russian officials are throwing their support behind Ukrainian separatist rebels’ planned elections for their own parliaments after warnings from Ukrainian leaders in Kiev that no power in the world will recognize the proclaimed independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics.” “It is necessary to create conditions for the elections rather than to dissuade people from them,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich. He was responding to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin’s appeal Thursday for the Kremlin to dissuade its eastern Ukraine proxies from going through with the divisive vote. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko disbanded the Supreme Council in late August and set early nationwide elections for Oct. 26 so that Ukrainians could elect representatives whose political leanings reflect the dramatically changed situation in the country over the last year.
Ukraine’s prime minister has launched what promises to be a bitter election campaign that could divide pro-Western parties and complicate their efforts to fight pro-Russian rebels in the country’s east. Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, a key interlocutor of the West during months of turmoil, announced on Thursday he would quit, saying parliament was betraying Ukraine’s army and people by blocking reforms supported by Western backers. His move, following the exit of two parties from the ruling coalition, amounted to the start of a campaign for seats in a legislature still packed with former allies of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich, ousted by protests in February. “History will not forgive us,” Yatseniuk told parliament on Thursday, in what analysts said was the first campaign speech for the party led by Yulia Tymoshenko, a rival of President Petro Poroshenko, who was elected to replace Yanukovich in May. Pro-Western political forces in Ukraine have been bitterly divided almost continuously since the country won independence with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Ukraine’s Security Service claims that it has removed a virus at the Central Election Commission’s server, designed to delete the results of the presidential vote. According to the interior minister the cyber-attack may force a ‘manual vote count.’ “The virus has been eliminated, software is replaced. So, we now have the confidence that the Central Election Commission’s server is safe,” Valentin Nalivaychenko, SBU head, is cited by UNN news agency. He is cited as saying that the virus was meant to destroy the results of presidential election on May 25. However the CEC programmers may not be able to fix the system in time for the elections, coup-installed Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced on his website. “On May 22 unknown intruders destroyed the ‘Elections’ information-analytical system of the Central Elections Commission, including those of the regional election commissions.”
From a cramped office in residential Donetsk, election officials were frantically working on Sunday to prepare for Ukraine’s May 25 presidential poll, despite what they described as intimidation and threats from pro-Russian separatists. By Monday morning, their resolve broken, they had shut down their office. “We’re not working out of safety concerns,” said Volodymyr Klotsky, a member of election commission no. 43, adding that he and his colleagues had reluctantly taken the decision after “terrorists” had seized the offices of another voting commission nearby. Klotsky’s commission had been the last of five such election bodies opened up in the eastern Ukrainian city, an industrial hub of about 1 million, which is now the centre of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic. The separatists’ revolt, fuelled by heady Russian propaganda, was focused at several points in the east following the overthrow of the Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich and the annexation by Russia of Crimea. Nonetheless, electoral authorities had set up Klotsky and others like him to do their best to prepare for an election that Kiev’s pro-Western rulers hope will legitimize government after the street revolt that forced Yanukovich to flee to Russia.
The Russian-controlled parliament of Ukraine’s Crimea area voted Thursday to secede and join Russia, and set a March 16 public vote on the latest move aimed at wresting the strategic peninsula from Ukraine. Officials in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev said such a vote would be meaningless as the Ukrainian constitution requires that any changes to national borders or territory be voted on by the entire country. The referendum on Crimea’s future, announced by the region’s first deputy prime minister, Rustam Temirgaliev, moved up the date for the controversial vote by two weeks. Ukraine’s National Defense and Security Council called an emergency session to respond to the Crimean action, the Ukraine Crisis Media Center reported.
US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke passionately yesterday about the “incredible yearning for modernity” sweeping across the world, warning that free elections do not necessarily usher in true democracy in many countries. The months of protests in Ukraine that led to the ousting of president Viktor Yanukovich were just one example of “people power” in recent months. Such protests were “a reflection of this incredible yearning for modernity, for change, for choice, for empowerment of individuals that is moving across the world, and in many cases moving a lot faster than political leadership is either aware of or able to respond to,” the top US diplomat told a small group of reporters. The ousting of Yanukovich, like July’s toppling of Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Mursi, proved that elections by themselves were not always enough. “A democracy is not defined solely by an election,” the top US diplomat argued.
Ukraine’s interim leadership pledged to put the country back on course for EU integration now that Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich has been ousted and new elections are called for 25 May, the same day as EU citizens will vote in the European elections. Meanwhile the United States warned Russia against sending in military forces. As rival neighbours east and west of the former Soviet republic said a power vacuum in Kyiv must not lead to the country breaking apart, acting President Oleksandr Turchinov said late on Sunday (23 February) that Ukraine’s new leaders wanted relations with Russia on a “new, equal and good-neighbourly footing that recognises and takes into account Ukraine’s European choice”. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will travel to Ukraine today (24 February), where she is expected to discuss measures to shore up the ailing economy. Russia said late on Sunday that it had recalled its ambassador to Ukraine for consultations on the “deteriorating situation” in Kyiv.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich will not use force to clear the streets and may challenge his opponents to early elections if they fail to compromise, according to reported comments by a political ally. Emerging on the day the president returned from sick leave and as parliament convenes for a new term on Tuesday, it may be an attempt to break a deadlock that has gripped central Kiev – and Ukraine’s ailing economy – since November, when Yanukovich spurned an EU trade deal and sought aid instead from Russia. At least six people have been killed in the past two weeks and fierce clashes between riot police and increasingly militant squads of hardline protesters have prompted concern that the big former Soviet state of 45 million people, which separates Russia from the European Union, might descend into civil war. However, Yanukovich, possibly comforted by an opinion survey last week showing both he and his party topping polls with about 20 percent support in Ukraine’s fragmented political system, may be ready to call the bluff of opponents who want him to quit.
Ukraine: Canadian election monitors question Ukraine irregularities as Kiev inks $15B deal with Russia | iPolitics
Canadian election observers sent to Ukraine to monitor repeat elections in five ridings that saw election fraud in 2012 have found irregularities, the observer team said, putting in doubt the legitimacy of the ruling party’s victory in those ridings. President Viktor Yanukovich’s Party of Regions won four of the five open seats in Sunday’s election despite the vote taking place amid the biggest anti-government protests the country has seen since 2004. The election findings also came as Yanukovich signed a $15-billion loan deal with Russia, a move that protesters had been mobilizing against for weeks. The elections in the ridings — which were so marred by election misconduct in 2012 the national election commission could not even compile results — were again beset with irregularities, including vote buying, Canadem, the election observer group, said in a release Monday on their preliminary findings. The group said it was “unable” to determine whether the elections “met international democratic standards.”
Ukraine’s opposition demanded a recount or a fresh vote in a dozen hotly contested constituencies on Monday, stepping up their campaign against a parliamentary election last month they say was rigged by President Viktor Yanukovich’s ruling party. Hundreds of people gathered outside the Central Electoral Commission headquarters in the capital Kiev to protest against fraud in the October 28 vote, defying warnings by police that the protest was illegal and might be broken up by force.
International observers delivered scathing criticism on Monday of Ukraine’s parliamentary election, saying the vote was heavily tilted in favor of President Viktor F. Yanukovich’s Party of Regions through the abuse of government resources, the dominance of media coverage and the jailing of two prominent opposition leaders. International observers on Monday said that the vote was heavily tilted in favor of President Viktor F. Yanukovich’s Party of Regions. “Considering the abuse of power, and the excessive role of money in this election, democratic progress appears to have reversed in Ukraine,” said Walburga Habsburg Douglas, a Swedish lawmaker who led an observer mission for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly.
Ukraine’s parliamentary election next month risks falling short of democratic standards and further damaging the former Soviet republic’s ties with the West, a senior U.S. official warned on Saturday. Just a day after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said the October 28 poll would help Ukraine seal a long-sought association agreement with the European Union, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Melia said it could receive a “failed” grade. “Ukraine could find itself increasingly distant in all directions rather than integrated in all directions,” Melia told a conference in the Black Sea resort of Yalta attended by senior Ukrainian officials including Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. “The election is another important moment for national choices, national decision-making and I think that unless or until some significant steps are taken to improve things like the election environment you are not going to be able to move as closely as many of you want to Europe and the United States.”
Former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko who is currently serving a jail sentence for abuse of office has addressed European politicians with a call to recognize the Ukrainian parliamentary poll as illegitimate before it even takes place. The address was read in the European Parliament by Tymoshenko’s daughter Yevgenia, who also held meetings with leaders of the European People’s Party – a coalition of European center-right parties who have long been allies with Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party. “The main message is to make a statement right now that these elections are illegitimate. After the elections are over it will be too late,” Yevgenia Tymoshenko said. “The dictatorship in Ukraine has practically been built. The elections will help to strengthen it,” she added. These words echoed last month’s statement by Wilfried Martens, president of the European People’s Party, who said that Yulia Tymoshenko’s arrest was a shift by President Viktor Yanukovich’s administration towards “Soviet-style authoritarianism.”
The European Parliament’s centre-right political group has joined Ukrainian opposition forces in condemning the Ukrainian Central Election Committee’s refusal to register imprisoned political leaders Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuri Lutsenko as candidates for the October parliamentary elections. Tymoshenko’s party, Batkivschyna (Fatherland), has appealed to the country’s Supreme Administrative Court over the administrative refusal to register the former prime minister and Lutsenko, the former interior minister, as the party’s parliamentary candidates, the Ukrainian News website reported yesterday (13 August). Tymoshenko and Lutsenko were sentenced last year to seven and four years, respectively, for abuse of power. Tymoshenko led the 2004 Orange Revolution protests that derailed current President Viktor Yanukovich’s first bid for presidency. The former prime minister says she is the victim of a vendetta by Yanukovich.