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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ukraine elects its fifth President in the first round, as anti-terrorist operation in Eastern Ukraine intensifies

Petro Poroshenko, newly elected President of Ukraine
(Image: ABC News)
Ukrainians cast their ballots in their historical and extremely important presidential elections, held on 25 May 2014 amid the tense and dangerous situation in Eastern Ukraine, as the pro-Russiand and Russian terrorists and separatists continue to destabilize situation in the region threatening security and unity of the country.

But despite the hard situation and extremely tense situation in Eastern Ukrainian Donetsk and Luhansk regions, millions of Ukrainians came on Sunday to the polling stations in Ukraine and all over the world to choose their fifth President. The voters’ turnout was more than 60%, according to the estimations of Ukrainian High Electoral Committee and numerous foreign observers, arrived to monitor Ukrainian early presidential elections. Many compare these elections with 1991 referendum for Ukrainian independence when people came en masse to the polling stations to choose the future of the country as of an independent and free state. 

This Sunday’s elections were historical too, as they were held under extremely hard circumstances and amid the military aggression of the neighboring Russia, which annexed Crimea in March and continues to destabilize situation in the volatile Donetsk region, trying to show support of the ideas of federalization in Eastern Ukraine. There were many fears that these events could disrupt presidential elections in Ukraine, as Russian military troops remain located along the border with Ukraine and more and more mercenaries and militants continue to arrive to Eastern Ukraine to fight on the side of the terrorists and separatists. Many of them don’t even try to hide their Russian citizenship and military experience in Caucasian wars.

Counting the ballots
(Image: Reuters)
But, despite all of this, the voters’ turnout was unprecedentedly high, both in Ukraine and abroad as well. The day of elections was marked by long queues of voters, who came to elect their new President in a celebratory mood, many of them were dressed in traditional Ukrainian clothes. Some voting stations were forces to extend the voting time due to the extremely high turnout. In general, the day of elections passed smooth and without any incidents, excluding Donetsk region. International observers stated that these elections were fair and transparent and were held in accordance with all democratic standards. There were some violations documented by the observers during the elections, but they were not massive and not so serious.

The results of the first exit-polls, conducted by four Ukrainian TV channels, and of a National Exit-poll demonstrated undoubted victory of Petro Poroshenko, a pro-European politician and confectionary magnate. Preliminary results of the elections, declared by Ukrainian HEC, demonstrate an overwhelmingly support of Petro Poroshenko by the majority of Ukrainians, as Mr. Poroshenko received more than 55% of votes, leaving far behind his main rival Yulia Tymoshenko, who gained nearly 13%. That means that Ukrainians have elected their President in the first round, avoiding waiting and holding of the second tour and getting the chance to have a legitimate President by the middle of June.

Ukrainians in national clothes vote for the new President
(Image: Reuters)
Petro Poroshenko has declared in his press conference haled after the announcing of the preliminary elections’ results his main political principles and objectives, stating that Ukrainian path towards European integration remains the main vector of Ukrainian foreign policies. The process of European integration and next stages of EU Association will be the priorities of Ukrainian new government in the field of foreign affairs. Mr. Poroshenko also declared that he intends to make a reshuffle in Ukrainian government and he specifically mentioned the Defense and Security Forces sector as those needed the changes desperately. As for the candidacy of the Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who holds this position in the current transitional government, will probably remain Ukrainian Prime Minister, according to Mr. Poroshenko’s statements.

As situation in Eastern Ukraine remains terribly dangerous, the issue of elimination of terrorist activities in the region and restoring security and order is among the key issues and tasks today, Mr. Poroshenko stated. He declared that anti-terrorist operation will continue but he insists on changing of its format and tactics. There shouldn’t be young conscripts without experience being used in this operation against the experienced terrorist fighters, and there should be serious and significant improving of equipment and weapons and conditions for Ukrainian military and security forces, launching an anti-terrorist operation in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. “An anti-terrorist operation should be conducted within hours, not within months,” Mr. Poroshenko stated. Though he pledged his readiness for the talks and attempts to resolve this crisis peacefully. There cannot be talks with criminals and terrorists, of course, but there should be a dialogue established with the representatives and people of the region in order to resolve this crisis.

Ukrainian PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk stands in the line to vote
(Image: Day Kyiv)
As for the neighboring country, Mr. Poroshenko thinks that cooperation and more friendly relationships with Russia are necessary and Ukraine is ready for the negotiations with Russia over the issue of Russian support of the terrorists in Eastern Ukraine, but these talks must be held in presence of the international observers and US and EU monitors. This moment was though criticized by Russian officials, as Russians accept currently only face-to-face talks.
Mr. Poroshenko’s first visit as a President will be to the problematic Donetsk region. The first foreign visit is expected to be to Poland. Russia still didn’t express its readiness to meet Ukrainian new president. Putin, in his turn, stated that he respects the results of Ukrainian elections, but he still didn’t congratulate Ukrainian new leader and mentioned that he may not recognize these results.

US, EU and other Western partners of Ukraine welcomed Ukrainian Sunday’s elections declaring their readiness to cooperate with the new Ukrainian leadership and to develop mutual relationships. In addition to that Ukraine received also total international support of its anti-terrorist operation, as Ukraine has a natural right to defend its country, borders, territories and people. Russia though demanded on Monday and Tuesday an immediate stop of a “punitive operation of Ukrainian government conducted against the peaceful demonstrators in Eastern Ukraine”.

Ukrainian soldiers participating in an anti-terrorist operation
in Eastern Ukraine
(Image: Kyiv Post)
As for the situation in Eastern Ukraine, it’s worth mentioning that an anti-terrorist operation intensified significantly on the night of Sunday and is currently ongoing. Pro-Russian separatists and terrorists have seized the building of Donetsk international airport on Sunday, but they were forced out and the airport was freed by Ukrainian military. Heavy fights and battles between Ukrainian security and armed forces and terrorists continued all over the night and during the following days in many cities of Donbas region, including Donetsk, Slovyansk, Kramatorsk and others. Terrorists had many losses and lost reportedly nearly 200 of their fighters. The leadership of a terrorist organization “Donetsk People’s Republic” escaped their headquarters and attempted to leave Donetsk and the country as well. Luhansk terrorist “People’s Republic” in its turn declared Donetsk’s Republic and its leaders traitors and declared war against them. Thus, there is a serious split within the camp of the terrorists. In addition to that, Ukrainian military has destroyed on Monday a big training camp for the terrorists. Anti-terrorist operation is ongoing now, as Ukrainian soldiers clear off the territory of the cities and the seized buildings of the terrorists and regain control over many objects. Leadership of an anti-terrorist operation hopes that it will end up soon and will be successful.