Kyiv, May 11, 2014. Sponsored by the Russian Federation eastern Ukraine’s illegal referendum blatantly violates key principles of democratic voting, stated today the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine. Eyewitnesses and international journalists report of the scarcity of voting cabins, circulation of pre-voted plebiscite ballots, gun threats to local civilians, and blatant negligence of identity and document checks during the voting in the cities of Eastern Ukraine. Ukraine’s government and the international community have already declared the illegitimacy of the referendum, taking place on May 11, 2014, while the separatist leaders report about the 90 percent voting turnout, the establishment of the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the launch of Russian Ruble shortly after referendum.
Organized by the pro-Russian separatists, the referendum in Donetsk and Luhansk regions features one key question: “Do you support the Declaration of state independence of the Donetsk People’s Republic?” Eyewitnesses report numerous armed persons standing near the polling stations. Russia’s RIA Novosti explains the enforcement of such measure as that “for solely security reasons.” On the other hand numerous observers and press report that much of Donbass population remains at home, being frightened to go either to the polling stations or outside.
“In Donetsk, people do not know where to vote, and majority is not planning to,” reports journalist Oleksiy Burlakov for Hromadske TV. In some Donbass cities the polling stations are “mobile.” “Ballot boxes will be mobile, so we will try to reach the largest possible number of respondents. The issues of property protection and personal safety of the members of commissions will be solved by the private security structures from Dnipropetrovsk,” reads the statement of the Central Elections Committee of Donbass.
Reportedly, voting ballots for the referendum were printed on a regular paper and do not have any watermarks or other counterfeit protection measures.
In Luhansk region, respondents could cast their votes on behalf of their neighbors and spouses, reported Novosti Donbassa. Additionally, the system allows voting multiple times; however those votes have to be cast at different voting stations. “I voted for the third time near the city council [Makeevka, Donetsk region – UCMC],” reports activist Yevhen Semekhin via his Facebook account.
Suffice it to say, the majority of voting stations do not have the official lists of respondents. To remedy this shortcoming, the pro-Russian separatists introduced a new policy – all voters, willing to cast their vote can register on the spot, by presenting their IDs or passports, reported Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
In addition to a key question, the poll in Donetsk features an extra question as to whether Donbass region should join the United Kingdom, “as the founder of Donetsk is a British businessman John Hughes. The town originally was called Yuzivka,” reads Ukrainian Pravda.
The overall number of voting stations in the Donbass region is reported to be extremely low compared to the population number. Thus, Donetsk has 3,35 million citizens, 706 thousands of whom were registered for the referendum; the organizers of the referendum launched only 371 voting stations.
Some polling stations have been intentionally closed, so that large groups of people had to go to the same polling station. This was done to create the false image of long lines of people who were allegedly desirous of expressing their votes at the so-called referendum. Experts say that such image may be easily picked-up by a number of Russian media, and “the necessary image” will be circulating on Russia’s TV screens by tonight.
Earlier the self-proclaimed city major of Sloviansk, Vyatcheslav Ponomarev forecast that the voting turnout would be over 90%. Additionally, if according to the outcomes of the referendum, people decide to establish the People’s Republic of Donetsk, Russian Ruble will become area’s main currency. “After the referendum Ukrainian hryvnia will still circulate, but gradually, I think we will switch to Russian ruble,” said Ponomarev, explaining the transition to the Russian currency because of “close economic integration with Russia”.
On May 10, 2014 Ukraine military detained a group of armed men, who were transporting 10 thousand pre-voted referendum ballots to the Donbass region.
Ukraine’s government and the international community, namely the US, Germany, France and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) expressed their deep condemnation toward the Russia-sponsored referendum. “The execution on May 11 of the illegitimate “referendum” on the status of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which is inspired, organized and sponsored by the Kremlin, is legally void. […] On the backstage of “referendums” and provocations are trained and armed by modern Russian standards terrorist gangs,” reads the official statement of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine.
“Referendum, scheduled for May 11, 2014 in Eastern Ukraine is illegitimate, according to the law of Ukraine. It is aimed only on separating and raising the overall chaos in the country,” commented Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the United States Department of State.
Additionally, the US government called on Russia to withdraw all its troops from Ukraine’s eastern border, which only provoke the military confrontation between the two neighboring states.
Since March 2014, Russia started actively deploying troops to Ukraine’s eastern border. In the meantime, pro-Russian separatist units started calling for federalization of Ukraine and promoted separation from the Eastern European State.