Yatsenyuk: Russia may disrupt Ukraine’s Sunday election

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Washington, March 2013, [ Atlantic Council/flickr]

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk warned today (23 October) of possible attempts by Russia to disrupt Sunday’s parliamentary election in Ukraine, and ordered a full security mobilisation to prevent “terrorist acts” being carried out.

“It is clear that attempts to destabilise the situation will continue and be provoked by the Russian side. They did not succeed during the presidential election [in May] … but their plans have remained,” he told a meeting of top security chiefs and election monitors.

“We need […] full mobilisation of the whole law-enforcement system to prevent violations of the election process and any attempts at terrorist acts during the elections,” Yatsenyuk said.

The Prime Minister’s warning was likely to heighten tension before Sunday’s poll, the first parliamentary election since the Euromaidan street protests last winter, which drove Moscow-backed leader Viktor Yanukovich to flee to Russia.

Western governments supported the pro-Europe protests, but Russia denounced Yanukovich’s overthrow as a coup. It went on to annex Crimea and back armed revolts by separatists in eastern Ukraine, in a conflict that has killed more than 3,700 people.

“Realistically, we are in a state of Russian aggression and we have before us one more challenge – to hold parliamentary elections … The choice [of voters] will be made by the ballot paper and an honest expression of will, and not automatic weapons,” Yatsenyuk said.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said 61,000 police would be responsible for guarding polling stations across the country of 46 million. Of those, 4,000 will be members of special forces who can react rapidly to any threat of “terrorist” action.

A political bloc supporting Ukraine’s pro-Western president, Petro Poroshenko, is expected to emerge as the leading force in parliament. That should provide him with a mandate to press ahead with a peace plan for eastern Ukraine, while pursuing the European integration that has riled Moscow.

The annexation of Crimea means the loss of 12 seats from the 450-seat parliament. Separatist action in the east will prevent polling in at least 14 voting districts there.

Separatists say they plan to hold rival elections on 2 November in the territory they control, to further their demands for independence.

NATO leaders made clear at a summit in Wales that their military alliance would not use force to defend Ukraine, which is not a member, but planned tougher economic sanctions to try to change Russian behaviour in the former Soviet republic.

>> Read: NATO summit pledges ‘tangible’ support to Ukraine

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who was present at the 4-5 September NATO summit, also took centre stage at the 30 August EU summit, where he said that the EU's agenda from now on would largely revolve around Ukraine.

>> Read: Poroshenko: The EU's agenda now revolves around Ukraine

At the summit, some EU leaders reportedly spoke about the need of military assistance to Ukraine, many demanded tougher sanctions, but reportedly Slovakia, Hungary and Cyprus made it clear they oppose further sanctions which they claim would hurt their countries more than Russia.

The new EU sanctions that became effective on 12 September would limit access by Russian oil companies to funds. Similar sanctions from the United States adopted on the same day hit Russia's biggest bank and an arms maker, and bar U.S. firms from helping five big Russian oil companies explore hard to reach deposits.

Moscow has already responded to sanctions by banning the import of most Western food. It said it could take further measures and might appeal to the World Trade Organisation.


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