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Ukraine Crisis

Breaking news, updates, and analysis on the uprising and crisis in Ukraine.

  • Ukraine holds vote seen as key for restoring order

    Long lines snaked around polling stations in Kiev on Sunday for Ukraine's critical presidential election, a stark contrast to the troubled east where heavily armed pro-Russian rebels intimidated voters by smashing ballot boxes and blocking access to voting centers.

    The election came three months after the ouster of the country's pro-Russia leader, who was chased from power by months of protests over corruption and his decision to reject a pact with the European Union and forge closer ties with Moscow.

    There were no immediate signs of clashes on Sunday after weeks of intense battles in a deadly insurgency. But it also appeared little voting was taking place in the east: The regional administration in Donetsk said that only 426 of 2,430 polling stations in the region were open Sunday, and none in the city of Donetsk, which has 1 million people.

    There was no voting in Luhansk, the center of the neighboring province, but some stations appeared to be open across the region, according to local officials.

    Polls have shown 48-year old billionaire candy-maker Petro Poroshenko far ahead of the other 20 candidates, but short of the absolute majority needed to win in the first round, so a runoff is expected on June 15.

    "I am convinced that this election must finally bring peace to Ukraine, stop lawlessness, stop chaos, stop bandit terror in the east," Poroshenko said after casting his ballot in central Kiev, where many people wore the traditional embroidered shirts that have become a symbol of patriotism.

    "People with weapons must be removed from Ukrainian streets, Ukrainian villages and cities," Poroshenko said.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Of the dozen or two voters I just talked to in Kiev, only one (!) was voting for Tymoshenko #oldnews

  • A woman embraces a pro-Russian separatist from the "East" battalion during a rally in the eastern city of Donetsk on May 25, 2014. Ukrainians voted on Sunday in a presidential election billed as the most important since they won their independence from Moscow 23 years ago, but armed pro-Russian separatists disrupted voting in eastern regions of the former Soviet republic. (Stringer/Reuters)

  • Met my first Yulia voter in #Kiev . Why Tymoshenko? "She's a woman," 52-year-old Natasha says. Plus she hates Poroshenko.
  • At polling station on Kyiv outskirts that went 70% Tymoshenko in 2010. This time, all Poroshenko. Narrative that elxn needs to end today.
  • Stand off continues at the gates of Rinat Akhmetov residence in #Donetsk . Armed pro Russian militia is here too

  • An Italian journalist was killed in eastern Ukraine, Mashable reports.

    From Mashable:

    Italian journalist Andrea Rocchelli, 30, was killed in eastern Ukraine, Italian officials confirmed on Sunday. 

    Rocchelli and his translator were reportedly killed by mortar fire after hiding in a ditch near Sloviansk, the epicenter of violence between pro-Russian separatists and Kiev-supporting troops. The two bodies were taken to a local hospital for family identification. 

  • Negotiations happening now. Mob wants to break through Akhmetov's front door. #Donetsk

  • Oplot and Russian Orthodox fighters trying to persuade Pro-Russian mob not to storm Akhmetov residence in #Donetsk .

  • Mariupol voter: "Everything is screwed. Best way would be to kill everyone over 20 and start from scratch." That's one option. (She was 55)
  • According to KyivPost, there was low voter turnout in eastern Donetsk.

    From KyivPost:

    The Committee of Voters of Ukraine, an election watchdog, reports a low turnout in a handful of open polling stations in Donetsk Oblast, where only seven district commissions of 15 opened today. “At the polling stations that opened up, the turnout by 11 a.m. was five percent,” Oleksandr Chernenko, head of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine tweeted.

    Get more on the elections at KyivPost. It was expected that voter turnout would be low in Ukraine's east and many would have been shocked if voters had turned out in droves. Just weeks ago, key areas in the region voted for self rule.
  • The platforms of all the presidential candidates hang on the wall at polling station in this Kiev school. #Ukraine

  • Turnout, at least in Kyiv, appears to be very high.
  • Voting very split at first polling stations I've visited today. Wouldn't be surprised at all to see this go two rounds.
  • The turnout at my polling station was about 30% by 12.30PM, officials said. It opened with 30 min delay #UkraineVotes

  • Obviously the least of concerns, but it is positively sweltering in #Kiev #Kyiv polling stations. #UkraineVotes
  • Women swarm the Vostok Battalion in #Donetsk and shower them their love.

  •  Ukrainian businessman, politician and presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko and his wife cast their votes during a presidential election at a polling station in Kiev on May 25, 2014. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

  • "Russia will fail at derailing our voting. We'll have a legitimate president"
    Ukraine PM @Yatsenyuk_AP votes in Kyiv

  • Polling station in Dokuchaevsk, Donetsk region. Planned to open at 10. At 930 DNR came and "asked politely" to close it. No votes were cast.

  • A woman exits a polling booth at a school in the eastern Ukrainian town of Krasnoermeisk during Ukraine's presidential elections on May 25, 2014. (Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)

  • As Ukraine's historic election day got underway Sunday, there were no immediate reports of violence, but pro-Russia insurgents were active, according to The Associated Press.

    From the AP:

    Ukraine's critical presidential election got underway Sunday under the wary scrutiny of a world eager for stability in a country rocked by a deadly uprising in the east. While there were no immediate reports of violence, pro-Russia insurgents were trying to block voting by snatching ballot boxes and patrolling polling stations.

    The vote was taking place three months after the ouster of the country's pro-Russia leader, who was chased from power by months of protests triggered by his decision to reject a pact with the European Union and forge closer ties with Moscow.

    There were no immediate reports of fighting on Sunday after weeks of intense battles. But it also appeared little voting was taking place in the east: The regional administration in Donetsk said that only 426 out of 2,430 polling stations in the region were open Sunday, and none in the city of Donetsk itself.

    There was no voting in Luhansk, the center of the neighboring province, but some stations appeared to be open across the region, according to local officials.

    Polls have shown the 48-year old billionaire candy-maker Petro Poroshenko far ahead of the other 20 candidates, but short of the absolute majority needed to win in the first round, so a runoff set for June 15 is expected. Poroshenko's nearest challenger is Yulia Tymoshenko, the divisive and charismatic former prime minister.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin promised Friday to "respect the choice of the Ukrainian people" and said he would be ready to work with the winner, in an apparent bid to ease the worst crisis in relations with the West since the Cold War and avoid a new round of Western sanctions.

    In Kiev, Vera Potemkina, 65, a retired university professor, said she cast her ballot for Poroshenko because she hopes he will steer Ukraine out of Russia's orbit and closer to the West. "We are part of Europe, we do not need Asia," she said.

    Tymoshenko, the 53-year-old blond-braided heroine of the 2004 Orange Revolution, spent two-and-a half years in prison on abuse of office charges denounced as political by the West. She is still admired by many for her energy and will, but detested by others over her role in the political infighting that has weakened the country in the past.

  • Ukrainian soldiers stand in line to receive ballot papers before casting their votes in a presidential election at a polling station in the village of Desna, in the Chernihiv region of Ukraine, on May 25, 2014. (Konstantin Grishin/Reuters) 

  • Early signs from Ukraine's election day point to a high turnout, Reuters reports in what is already a very detailed story on the historic moment.

    From  Reuters:

    Ukrainians voted on Sunday in a presidential election billed as the most important since they won their independence from Moscow 23 years ago, but armed pro-Russian separatists disrupted voting in eastern regions of the former Soviet republic.

    Early signs pointed to a high turnout in sunny weather in an election where the main candidates, including front-runner Petro Poroshenko, a confectionery magnate, are promising closer ties with the West in defiance of Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

    But the absence of over 15 percent 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 Putin's new pledge to respect the people's will.

    Voting began in most of Ukraine at 8 a.m. (1 a.m. EDT) and will end 12 hours later, when exit polls will indicate a result ahead of an official outcome on Monday.

    Only about 20 percent of the polling stations in the heavily industrialized, Russian-speaking Donetsk region, which has 3.3 million registered voters, were working as of 9:30 a.m. (2.30 a.m. EDT), authorities said. None were open in the city of Donetsk.

    "These are extremely important elections. We have to make sure Ukraine becomes a truly independent country, a powerful independent state that nobody will be able to push around," said pensioner Mikhailo Belyk, 65, casting his ballot at a crowded polling station in a southeast district of the capital Kiev.

    Sounding an equally upbeat note, businessman Viktor Sypchenko, 45, said: "I am voting for my children and their future. I hope we can break free from our awful past."

    The picture emerging in the east was more confused. European election monitors have largely pulled out of the Donetsk region for their own safety, citing a campaign of "terror" by pro-Russian separatists against Ukrainian electoral officials.

  • Voting is underway in Ukraine - but not in Donetsk, where masked gunmen shut the only polling station 10 minutes after it opened.
  • When criticizing the West, Putin said the support of the 'unconstitutional coup' in Kiev interrupted the 'constructive dialogue' over Ukraine, according to Reuters.

    However, despite his criticism, the Russian president said he thinks there will be no new Cold War over the crisis in Ukraine, reuters reports.
  • Pro-Russian insurgents have prevented at least half of the election districts in the embattled east of the country to prepare for Sunday's presidential election, a Ukrainian official says.

    Volodymyr Hrinyak, chief of the public security department at the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, said Saturday that 17 out of 34 district election commissions in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions are not operating because their offices have either been seized or blocked by armed men. Hrinyak's update was reported by the Interfax news agency.

    The insurgents have controlled parts of Ukraine for weeks. Following their declaration of independence earlier this month, they pledged to derail the vote which they regard as an election in "a neighboring country."

    They remain defiant although Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that he is prepared to work with the election winner.

    Twenty-one candidates are competing to become Ukraine's next leader. Polls show billionaire candy-maker Petro Poroshenko with a commanding lead, but short of the absolute majority needed to win in the first round. His nearest challenger is Yulia Tymoshenko, the divisive former prime minister who is far behind.

    Most polls suggest Poroshenko would win a runoff ballot, which would be held on June 15.

    Fighting was reported Friday between pro-Russia separatists and government forces in eastern Ukraine as Kiev continued an offensive to try to halt the uprising.

    Associated Press reporters saw two dead Ukrainian soldiers near the village of Karlivka, and another body near a rebel checkpoint, both in the Donetsk region. A rebel leader said 16 more people died Friday in fighting there — 10 soldiers, four rebels and two civilians — but there was no immediate way to verify his statement.

    In Kiev, the Defense Ministry said 20 insurgents were killed in an attack on a convoy of government troops Thursday by about 500 rebels, the largest insurgent assault yet reported. The clash could not be independently confirmed and it was unclear why such a large attack in a populated region would have gone unreported for more than a day.

    [The Associated Press]
  • Russian President Putin says sanctions on Russia are counterproductive and do not correspond to international law, according to Reuters.
  • And just when you think everything's cool, Putin makes some snide comment about how maybe Kiev isn't interested in having a legit president
  • Reiterating comments he made on CNBC on Friday, Russian President Putin says Russia will respect the choice of the Ukrainian people in Sunday's presidential election, Reuters reports.

    Putin added that Russia will work with the new Ukrainian authorities after the election, according to Reuters.
  • Traveling through rural #Donetsk today, no one knows if elections will be held tomorrow. Residents are worried about retribution for voting.
  • Seeing a lot of billboards in and around #Donetsk where there were election posters now empty, presumably ripped down
  • Trepidation, intimidation in eastern Ukraine as Sunday's election nears

    By: Sabra Ayers

    DONETSK, Ukraine — Preparations for Ukraine’s presidential elections on Sunday are not going well in the eastern part of the country.

    Armed pro-Russian separatists have taken over dozens of polling stations, threatened district election committee members and declared the election illegal under the laws of the self-declared independent Donetsk People’s Republic. Its leaders said they plan to prevent, by any means, the election of a “neighboring state” from taking place.

    “I’m afraid this election is not going to take place here,” said Yevgen Nasadyuk, a member of the election committee for the Kuybishevsky district in central Donetsk. Nasadyuk said he was in charge of organizing and staffing 10 of the 99 polling stations for the district’s 152,690 voters.

    “None of my stations are able to work,” Nasadyuk said. “We don’t even have the ballots. They’ve kidnapped our election commission head and stolen our voters’ registration list. How could we have this election?”

    Meanwhile, more fighting between pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian military continued across the volatile region, with seven more casualties reported Thursday. In the last two days, 25 Ukrainian troops have died in clashes with the rebels.

    The separatists’ intimidation tactics seem to be working on eastern Ukrainian voters who would like to go to the polls for what could be the most important election since independence from the Soviet Union.

    “I do not know whether the election will take place here. Every minute something happens,” said Tatyana Kravtsova, 53, from Krasnoarmeysk, a mining city about 40 miles from Donetsk, the regional capital. “If there are any provocations, people will just go home and will not vote.”

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Journalist pal in #Artemivsk tells me separatists there removed #Ukraine coat of arms from city govt bldg and tossed it in the trash.
  • Ukraine's ministry of defense has released the following statement about two incidents that took place on or around May 22 near the town of Rubizhne:

    On the night of 22 on May 23, 2014 , terrorists attacked a convoy of military vehicles that moved around town Rubizhne , Luhansk region. Approximately 04.40 near the bridge between Rubizhne and Druzhelyubivka column of one of the military units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine fell into an ambush and was fired from grenade lauchers and small arms. Soldiers entered the battle. Due to fierce battle one soldier killed, three others were injured.

    Also on 22 May, about 15.40 , on the southern edge of Rubizhne more than 500 armed militants attacked a military unit in position , again with the use of civilians as living shield. For this bloody action militants, deliberately accumulated power in advance. It is about a gang of militants from Lugansk , recently deployed in Anthracite, and composed of Russian professional mercenaries. 

    In close collaboration mechanized division and army aviation Ukrainian military gave terrorists uncompromising resistance. The fierce battle lasted for several hours. Ukrainian military was able to keep the position and force of terrorists away . Loss of the militants - to 20 killed and 30 wounded.

    In all cases, soldiers wounded in battle, received emergency medical assistance and evacuated to military medical facilities.

    In most cases, the Ukrainian military have to deal with well-trained and armed militants, professional mercenaries who act treacherously with ambushes , and always use local supporters, civilians as human shields .

    Nevertheless , elements of the Armed Forces of Ukraine successfully perform tasks under the anti-terrorist operations continue to constrict around the ring to prevent terrorists from destabilizing the situation in other regions of the country and the disruption of early presidential elections.

    Leadership of the Ministry of Defence and the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine expresses its deep condolences to the bereaved members of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

  • Ukraine's defense ministry says up to 500 insurgents attacked government troops in one clash in eastern Ukraine that left 20 insurgents dead.

    The ministry said in a statement Friday the clash took place Thursday as a convoy of Ukrainian troops was attacked outside the eastern village of Rubizhne.

    The ministry said one soldier was killed early Friday in a separate clash near the same area.

    [The Associated Press]
  • The Associated Press is reporting 500 pro-Russian insurgents have clashed with soldiers in eastern Ukraine and 20 rebels were killed.
  • According to EU diplomats, the European Union's options for sanctions on Russia include caviar and furs, capital market restrictions and oil and gas, Reuters reports.
  • Russia's top general says it will take about 20 days to move military equipment from Ukraine border areas back to permanent bases, Reuters reports.
  • Putin calls Ukraine crisis 'full-scale civil war'

    Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that sanctions imposed on Russia over the Ukraine crisis would have a boomerang effect on the West.

    Putin’s remarks came as other Russian leaders accused the West of triggering the crisis, and as sporadic violence gripped parts of eastern Ukraine ahead of Sunday’s national elections.

    Speaking at an international business forum in St. Petersburg, Putin mostly addressed economic matters, including the signing of a massive gas deal with China earlier this week. But he also criticized the situation in Ukraine, calling it for the first time a “full-scale civil war.”

    Putin blasted Western involvement, saying the U.S. vision of a “unipolar” world had failed. He hailed European countries for taking a more “pragmatic” approach to Russia than the United States. Many countries in the European Union, heavily reliant on Russian gas supplies, have been more reluctant than Washington to impose tough sanctions on Russia.

    Putin hinted at the strain between Ukraine and Russia over natural gas. The crisis in Ukraine intensified in December, when Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych signed a multibillion-dollar gas deal with Russia that gave Ukraine discounted gas – a move that rattled protestors calling for closer ties with Europe. Yanukovich was ousted in February. Now, Russia is making Ukraine pay up-front and at higher rates for its gas.

    “We have supplied gas to Ukraine and not been paid,” Putin said through a translator. “Who would supply gas to Ukraine free of charge? There must be some red lines … Give us our money back.”

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Russia has prepared a classified document setting out actions it would take if Western nations impose further sanctions on Moscow over its involvement in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin's top economic aide said on Friday.

    "I can say that strategy or no strategy, there is a tactic, it has been worked out, it is in the form of  a document - a document that is closed, for obvious reasons," Andrei Belousov told state-run Rossiya-24 television.


  • A medic tends to a seriously wounded member of a pro-Ukrainian militia after he was shot several times during a gun battle in the rural settlement of Karlovka, west of Donetsk, on May 23, 2014 (Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)

  • Opinion: May 25 is a day of reckoning for all of Europe

    By Sunday, May 25, approximately 400 million European Union citizens across 28 countries will have had the chance to go to the polls to elect a new parliament in Brussels. Farther east, Ukrainians will select a new president on the same day. There are no overlapping candidates, constituencies or, on the surface, issues in these two distinct elections. In fact, voting may not even take place in much of Ukraine. But the two polls, taking place simultaneously from Donetsk to the Canary Islands, are closely interconnected: Much about the future of Europe hinges on their outcomes.

    The landmark presidential election in Ukraine is key to stopping the country’s further fragmentation and descent into war. A legitimate, popularly elected government in Kiev could begin putting the country back together and start a constructive dialogue between Russia and the transatlantic West. All of Europe, and Eastern Europe in particular, will benefit enormously from a stable, predictable Ukraine.

    Russian speakers in Ukraine’s south and east don’t trust the current provisional government in Kiev. In recent weeks, separatists in eastern Ukraine have laid siege to government buildings and have staged self-styled referendum votes. Russia and most Russian speakers in Ukraine believe that the pro-EU Maidan leaders are diehard fascists bent on persecuting the country’s minorities. Russian President Vladimir Putin says he won’t even sit at the table with them. In theory, if a moderate leader, who had the trust of all Ukrainians, replaced the Maidan leadership in Sunday’s election, dialogue and reconciliation could begin in earnest. But, unfortunately for Ukraine, there is no such candidate at the moment.

    Petro Poroshenko, a pro-European businessman who is currently leading in the polls, might be the second best option. Known as “the chocolate king” for his confectionery enterprise, the largest in Ukraine, the 48-year-old Poroshenko is considered one of the most influential men in Ukrainian politics. Over the past decade, he has served as the country’s foreign affairs minister, speaker of the Ukrainian parliament and head of the national bank. A graduate of Kiev University with degrees in economics and law, he started his own business selling cocoa beans just as the Soviet Union began to implode.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
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