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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukraine Liveblog Day 97: Polls Open with Election Under Threat in East

Publication: Ukraine Liveblogs
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Slain Italian Journalist Was Investigating Homes Destroyed Near Slavyansk, Says Rights Groups

Russian human rights activists have described the story that Italian journalist Andrea Rocchelli and Russian translator Andrei Mironov were working on at the time of their deaths Saturday.

Radio Svoboda, the Russian-language service of RFE/RL interviewed Aleksandr Cherkasov, chairman of the board of Memorial Human Rights Center about Mironov, a former Soviet political prisoner who was a member of Memorial, although not on the staff. Cherkasov said Mironov had worked for many years as a journalist, human rights monitor and translator for foreign journalists in both Chechen wars and other conflicts in the Caucasus and recently in Ukraine.

Memorial itself recently conducted investigations in Donetsk and Kramatorsk and gave a press conference about their findings on the eve of the 11 May referendum, but their trip was separate from that of Mironov and Rocchelli.

Mironov (L) and Rocchelli. Photo by Cesura Lab.

Cherkasov described the area where the journalists were working before their deaths:

"This was outside of town, where evidently, there were some strongholds (of separatists--Radio Svoboda). Ukrainian forces were using heavy artillery there and firing on these strongholds from 122-mm mortars, which could be determined from shrapnel. Several nights ago, 6 homes had been destroyed and a hospital damaged right nearby. Understandably, journalists and human rights defenders went there. Some were lucky. When Andrei and his friends came, evidently, this area fell under fire. The firing was coming from hidden positions, that is, they could not see directly who they were shooting. A car drove up and once again they opened fire from mortars at that area."

The Italian Foreign Ministry said they would conduct a thorough investigation of the death of Rocchelli, who had worked in Chechnya, Libya, Afghanistan, Algeria, and Kyrgyzstan as well as Maidan and southeast Ukraine, and in addition to Cesuralab, worked on Italia-1 TV owned by Mediaset, the Berlusconi family's channel.

Human Rights Watch researcher Tatyana Lokshina, who has also been monitoring the human rights situation in Donetsk Region, said she left Slavyansk the day before Rochhelli and Mironov because of heavy shelling which made it too dangerous to stay. Lokshina reported:

"Slavyansk has figured fairly long in the news as a place of high concentration of anti-Kiev, anti-Ukrainian forces. There really are large detachments of fighers there. When we were there, there was a shoot-out between them and Ukrainian military which was located nearby."

Asked if the area was forested or populated, Lokshina said there were small villages in the area:

"We were in the village of Semenovka on the outskirts of Slavyansk, and were were there because we learned the village was shelled for the third night straight. When we got there, we saw several homes destroyed, it must be said that the night before we arrived, six homes were rather heavily damaged --two homes destroyed very severely, and another four damaged that night -- with 9 damaged homes in all. We talked with the local residents, and they told us about the intenseness of the shelling, that it was getting worse, and growing."

Lokshina said Human Rights Watch covers human rights violations on both sides of the conflict, and were monitoring the situation of journalists who had been obstructed in their work, detained or disappeared, including Russian state media.

"There was a constant battle, there were uninterrupted combat actions, heavy shelling at night, and during the day, various strikes," she said, and described one 80-year-old woman in Semenovka whose house was ruined but who was saved by hiding underneath a table. She noted:

"Of course it must be said that the Ukrainian military aren't just shelling for no reason. They are shelling because there is a rather serious presence of insurgents there, and from there, from the outskirts of that village, they shoot at the soldiers."

Although the shelling was not that intensive there, people were still panicking and hiding in cellars, if they were unable to evacuate, she said.

As we reported yesterday, Russian state TV channel Rossiya 24 broadcast a news program 24 May that said a shell had hit the roof of a psychiatric hospital, causing a fire, and damaged homes as well as an auto repair shop where a 120 mm anti-personnel mine was found. The correspondent blamed the Ukrainian army for shelling civilian buildings, although conceded that a battle was underway in Semenovka between separatists and Ukrainian soldiers.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government has not yet commented on the reason for the journalists' deaths, but Dmitry Tymchuk, a military analyst for the Ukrainian group Information Resistance, said that Ukrainian forces were located on Karachun Hill and had not been actively shelling in the area near the railroad crossing where the journalists were found dead.

Tymchuk said that Ukrainian soldiers were not likely to be able to fire on the journalists with automatic weapons because they were at least 1.5 kilometers away. Instead, he said, during this period the separatist groups in Slavyansk were constantly shelling the positions of Ukrainian forces.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Poroshenko Acclaimed Winner as Vote Count Continues

With exit polls showing Poroshenko at 60% and others trailing far behind, Ukrainian oligarch Petro Poroshenko claimed victory in the presidential elections, although the votes were still being counted.

The polls were still open after hours at 22:23 local time because of long lines, UNIAN reported -- although , the winner was already decided. The Central Elections Commission was still counting votes, which were more than expected, and in Donetsk, commissioners had to count records by hand as the system was down.

Turnout was reported as 60%, and other news agencies reported, actually less than the 67% reported in 2010. In some parts of the country, polls were closed; while the Washington Post reported that a regional breakdown was not available, people in two eastern districts made up about 14% of the electorate.

Popular Russian blogger Ilya Varlamov gave a summary of a press conference this evening held by the acclaimed winner Poroshenko, and Vitali Klitschko, who is expected to win the contest for mayor of Kiev, based on exit polls:

Russia is our neighbour. We have had a difficult 200-year relationship. We are choosing the Geneva format for negotiations. Crimea is ours. Our direction is toward the EU. We can come to an agreement about the rest.

Yesterday Varlamov was stopped and interrogated for some hours at the Ukrainian border.

The Ukrainian TV channel TSN visualized the elections as follows:

Poroshenko said he would sell his chocolate factory after he took office, reported.

Ukrainian journalist Peter Shuklinov posted the "photo of the day," although the author was unknown:

Translation:  Photo of the year, I think. Who is the author? Strong.

Although the Batkyvshina Party had lost and done poorly, Tymoshenko and Yatesnyuk were still toasting the elections.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Reports of Electoral Fraud Attempts in Odessa

The head of the Ukrainian Electoral Committee's Odessa region, Anatoliy Boiko, has announced at a press conference that there are voting irregularities in today's elections in Odessa. According to, Boiko said:

Unfortunately, we have the impression that deliberate, systemic fraud has been carried out on the voter lists in Odessa. 

The problem, he said, appears to affect the Malinovsky, Primorsky and Kievsky districts of the city, but not the Suvorovsky district. 

He also described serious problems in other districts, noting that at many polling stations, the electoral rolls for the mayoral elections were longer than those for the presidential ones. He added:

In addition, many voters complained that they had been on the register for the last elections but were not for these. I stress that if someone was on the electronic database, they could not have simply disappeared from it. They could fail to appear on the paper versions of the lists either through negligence on behalf of the registry employees, or this was done intentionally.

Meanwhile, Obkom reports that Vladimir Kurennoy, one of the leaders of UDAR's Odessa mayoral election team, has said that:

We have had reports that certain forces in the electoral commissions and in the city commission will attempt to correct the results of the [election].

Obkom continues:

According to his sources, the situation is rather tense in Odessa at the moment with the vote counting, and in addition, groups of young people in sports clothes [casuals], so-called 'titushki', are beginning to gather outside electoral commissions.

Kurrenoy said that, according to all exit polls, [Eduard] Gurwits [UDAR's candidate and twice former mayor of Odessa until 2010] is winning the election. 

That said, UDAR suspect that the second-place candidate, Gennadiy Trukhanov, is attempting to distort the results by employing the 'titushki' and his administrative resources.

All translations by The Interpreter.
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Exit Poll Suggests Klitschko Wins Kiev Mayoral Vote By Wide Margin

The Kyiv Post reports on the results of an exit poll conducted by the Savik Shuster Studio talk show. The poll suggests that Vitali Klitschko has "won 57 percent of the vote, leaving the runner-up Lesya Orobets far behind with 10 percent of the vote."

The newspaper also published the following results from the Savik Shuster Studio poll. It appears that Klitschko's UDAR party has by far the largest share of the vote for the city council as well:

List of parties that have won seats in Kyiv city council

UDAR 42.3

Radical Party (of Oleg Liashko) 7.9

Svoboda 7.7

Samopomich (Self-aid, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovy's party) 7.4

Batkivshchyna 4.7

New Life (Olesya Orobets) 4.1

Democratic Alliance (Vasyl Gatsko) 3.7

Civic Position (Anatoliy Hrytsenko) 3.5

Unity 3.4

Source: Savik Shuster Studio

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
First Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Announces Anti-Terrorist Operation Will Resume Shortly

The first deputy prime minister of Ukraine, Vitaly Yarema, has announced that Ukrainian security forces will resume the anti-terrorist operation in the country's south-east.

Ukrainska Pravda reports that, at a briefing this in Kiev this evening, Yarema said (translated by The Interpreter):

For more peaceful solutions to the issues relating to the elections today, active operations by the Ukrainian army and security forces were suspended so that the residents of the eastern areas could go to the polls and vote. 

Meanwhile the armed forces maintained a high level of readiness and we completely blocked off parts of the regions occupied by terrorist organisations. The active phase of the anti-terrorist operation will resume shortly.