Ukraine crisis: The people get their chance to vote on country's future – if they dare

With gunmen on the streets, and a separatist boycott, Sunday’s election seems unlikely to end the turmoil

Donetsk

After months of political uncertainty Ukrainians finally get their say on their country’s future tomorrow in a crucial vote that, it is hoped, will dampen the current crisis.

In restive Donetsk – the scene of clashes in recent months between Ukrainian loyalists and pro-Russian secessionists – there are a few posters and electoral campaigning has been kept to a minimum. Ukrainian television and radio stations are no longer able to transmit here, so many of the population are relying on Russian stations for their news.

International monitors will be overseeing the vote in much of the west of Ukraine, but few are headed to the eastern regions, where monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have previously been detained by separatists.

Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire confectionary magnate, is expected to win a landslide victory for the presidency. Trailing some way behind him in the opinion polls is the former Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko.

 

Many of those who favour elections taking place expressed cynicism about the candidates. “He’s the same as the other oligarchs,” said Alexander, 37, a lawyer working in central Donetsk, when asked his views on Mr Poroshenko. “I don’t see any political forces who have managed to change something in this country.”

Some appeared to view the election not so much a chance to vote for a favoured candidate as an opportunity to exercise their democratic rights.

“Of course there must elections. It is very important for us to vote and elect a legitimate president because the Acting President [Oleksandr Turchynov] is illegitimate,” said Natalya Churinova, a shopkeeper. But she was sceptical about the current leadership in Kiev. “The Ukrainian government doesn’t want to find a compromise. They didn’t want to start dealing with local people here.”

Many in this eastern region say they regard the events of the anti-government Euromaidan protests with suspicion. The overthrown President Viktor Yanukovych was born and raised in Donetsk province and later served as its governor and commanded much of his support in the east of the country. “People here thought he was a crook,” explained one voter in Donetsk, “but at least he was their crook.”

Petro Poroshenko is expected to win in Ukraine Petro Poroshenko is expected to win in Ukraine (Getty Images)
Others here said they felt the current situation was too combustible for an election to take place. “They are useless and they will be illegitimate. It’s civil war now, it’s the wrong time for elections,” said Natalia, waiting for a tram with her two young sons.

There were further clashes in the east of Ukraine today. Three bodies were seen in Karlivka, 12 miles from Donetsk, which is controlled by pro-Russian rebels. A rebel leader later claimed a further 16 had died in fighting – 10 soldiers, four rebels and two civilians – the Associated Press reported. In Kiev, the Defense Ministry said 20 insurgents were killed in an attack on a  convoy on Thursday.

The build-up to tomorrow’s election has been blighted by murders, assaults, kidnappings, detentions, imprisonments, and threats against the media, the OSCE said.

On Friday, Russia indicated that it would recognise the results of the vote. “We understand that the people of Ukraine want their country to emerge from this crisis. We will treat their choice with respect,” Vladimir Putin said during the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister and candidate for the upcoming presidential elections Yulia Tymoshenko Former Ukrainian Prime Minister and candidate for the upcoming presidential elections Yulia Tymoshenko (AP)
However, Denis Pushilin, head of the separatists’ self-declared Supreme Council, has dismissed the presidential elections as invalid.  His increasingly hostile supporters who have taken over Donetsk’s main government building echoed his views.

“How can we vote in elections in another country?” said one man, who gave his name as Anatoly. “According to all international laws we don’t have the right to vote for a Ukrainian president. There will be elections later. We will elect here our president.”

As he spoke, a car with its number plates removed pulled up and a gaggle of thickset tattooed men in tracksuits  went into the building. “Show me the people who want to vote, who want to participate in such an election,” Anatoly continued, as a  group of elderly pro-Russian women thronged around him. “They should go to their territory, far from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Better they go to Kiev and register there.”

The elections were called after President Yanukovych was deposed in February, following widescale protests against his pro-Russian policies, and are scheduled to go ahead despite serious disruptions to the voting preparations in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian politician and presidential election candidate Serhiy Tihipko Ukrainian politician and presidential election candidate Serhiy Tihipko (Reuters)
Thirty-six million people are eligible to vote, but around a fifth of them live in the areas badly affected by the pro-Russian unrest. There will be no elections in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in March.

Ukrainian elections: The frontrunners

Yulia Tymoshenko

Instantly recognisable for her blonde braid, pro-European Yulia Tymoshenko co-led the 2004 Orange Revolution. She was the country’s first female prime minister but lost elections to Victor Yanukovych in 2010. Jailed for corruption in 2011, she was released after the uprising in February 2014. Many voters now see her as a figure from the past.

Serhiy Tihipko

The former National Bank chairman and deputy prime minister served as a parliamentary member of Victor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. After Yanukovych fled he revived an old party, Strong Ukraine. He is popular in eastern Ukraine but not in Kiev or the west; disruption to voting in the east means he is unlikely to do well.

Petro Poroshenko

A billionaire chocolate magnate who was Victor Yanukovych’s economy minister, Poroshenko was also the only oligarch on the barricades at the Euromaidan protests. He owns a confectionary company and, crucially, a television station. Despite being in Ukrainian politics since the 1990s, he retains a comparatively clean reputation.

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape