In eastern Ukraine, most voters dream only of peace

Of the Donetsk region's 21 voting districts, voting was expected to take place in at least nine areas held by government forces, a non-governmental vote-monitoring organisation said.

In eastern Ukraine, most voters dream only of peace

World Bulletin/News Desk

Voters in eastern Ukraine had one thing on their mind as they voted in Sunday's parliamentary election: an end to months of conflict between pro-Russian separatists and government forces.

"Peace is the only thing people want here," said a 57-year-old woman, who gave her name only as Yelena, after voting in Volnovakha, in territory held by Kiev's troops about 50 km (30 miles) south of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk.

Backing President Petro Poroshenko and populist leader Oleh Lyashko, she said: "We need patriots in this region."

Much of eastern Ukraine lies in ruins six months after the separatist rebellion began following the overthrow of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovich. Rebel-held areas are not even voting and plan a leadership vote on Nov. 2 instead.

Civilian deaths are still rising despite a Sept. 5 ceasefire, and mortar bombs fall regularly along the frontline between Ukrainian troops and the rebels, who Kiev says have been reinforced by Russian soldiers and weapons.

The frontline runs along wide sunflower and wheat fields separating the regions controlled by Ukrainian troops and those that are now in the hands of pro-Russian separatists.

Control is often tenuous and mortar shelling in the past few days thwarted attempts by some towns and villages to organise voting to the parliament in Kiev.

Nadezhda Danilchenko, a member of the election committee at the polling station in Volnovakha, said shelling had been so loud on Saturday that the windows of her office shook.

"Either the rebels are practising their shooting or they're trying to intimidate us," she said as she entered the polling station, guarded by armed soldiers, one of them wearing yellow and blue ribbons -- the colour of the Ukrainian flag.

FEAR FACTOR

Of the Donetsk region's 21 voting districts, voting was expected to take place in at least nine areas held by government forces, a non-governmental vote-monitoring organisation said.

People were simply afraid to vote in some places, residents said. In Novotroitske village near the rebels' self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic only 78 of the 1,700 registered voters had shown up more than two hours after voting began.

In Dokuchayevsk, like the other towns and villages under the control of the rebels, there was no voting but also little sign of disappointment.

"I've lived in Ukraine and I know what to expect. The elections will only bring more radicals and nationalists to power who will want to start the war again," said a 31-year-old man who gave his name only as Alexei.

Absent from voting lists is Yanukovich's discredited Party of Regions, though it still has some appeal for older voters and some former members are running for the Opposition Bloc led by his former fuel minister.

"Our village has always been for the Party of Regions. People here are afraid of change, the fight against corruption," said Olga Shnaider, a 60-year-old resident. "But anyone interested in peace has better choices."

Last Mod: 26 Ekim 2014, 17:00
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