A team of American lawmakers is in Ukraine to observe the presidential election which Washington has called a historic milestone and provided over US$ 11.4 million to support the vote despite ongoing violence in eastern Ukraine.
US senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Benjamin Cardin (D-Maryland) arrived in Ukraine’s capital Kiev as a part of the American monitoring mission. The US team is led by former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.
President Obama: I congratulate the people of #Ukraine for making their voices heard by voting in their presidential election. #UkraineVotes
— Department of State (@StateDept) May 25, 2014
“Throughout the last few months, the Ukrainian people have repeatedly demonstrated their desire to choose their leaders without interference and to live in a democracy where they can determine their own future free of violence and intimidation,” the US president said in a statement. “This election is another important step forward in the efforts of the Ukrainian government to unify the country and reach out to all of its citizens to ensure their concerns are addressed and aspirations met.”
Ahead on Sunday’s voting, Maryland Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin emphasized Washington’s backing for the vote.
“Our main reason for participating is to express our support for the Ukrainian people,” Cardin told a news conference in Kiev. The American lawmaker added that they were “particularly concerned about the impact from Russia” and would “obviously be watching closely what happens tomorrow.”
Speaking with MSNBC Saturday, Cardin also suggested that “they would see record numbers coming out to vote”.
Ohio’s Republican Robert Portman told MSNBC he thought the election would be “good,” admitting though that voter turnout in two eastern Ukrainian regions might not be as high as they “hoped for.”
The US was pushing for the elections in Ukraine – no matter what, violence or no violence in the country, RT’s Gayane Chichakyan noted.
Previously – under different circumstances – American officials could say how unacceptable voting at gunpoint is.
“That is not something that can be done with the barrel of a gun pointed at you,” President Obama and said earlier this year, at a meeting with Ukraine’s acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
Kiev has unleashed the army against those in the east of Ukraine who don’t want to be under its control.
Amid fire from Ukrainian army helicopters, and unarmed civilians shot dead as they tried to stop the army assault – Washington presents the elections in Ukraine as no problem.
“Ukraine is ready for the election,” Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson at the State Department told a press briefing on Friday.
“Across the vast majority of Ukraine, things are calm,” Jen Psaki, the State Department’s spokesperson claimed earlier.
It was calm in the port city of Odessa on May 2, before pro-Kiev activists chased their opponents into a building, the Trade Unions House and set it on fire, killing over 40 people and injuring dozens more. To this day, no one has been held responsible.
Similarly, no one was held responsible for the violence on the streets of Kiev in February which resulted in a coup that ousted President Viktor Yanukovich and propelled to power those whom the US wanted to see.
“It was absolutely vital for the political establishment in the US to legitimize the government that was installed by the Maidan coup in February because then they can say ‘Oh, look! These people were democratically elected.’ Because until now they haven’t been democratically elected: they came to power through force,” Nebojsa Malic, a columnist at antiwar.com told RT.
Thousands of international observers have been sent to Ukraine to observe the elections.
The OSCE sent its monitors to nine regions “according to a plan,” Richard Solash, a representative of the mission told Itar-Tass. However, no observers were present in Donetsk and Lugansk – the regions in eastern Ukraine that have been in the epicenter of anti-Kiev protests. Ahead of the voting day, four members of the OSCE team visited Donetsk to see what the situation was like, following which it was decided not to allocate observers to the region as well as to neighboring Lugansk.
OSCE parliamentarians observing at polling stations in #Odessa , #Ukraine #UkraineVotes #UkraineElections pic.twitter.com/oylbeaKXWZ
— OSCE PA (@oscepa) May 25, 2014
The Ukrainian Interior Minister had admitted earlier that it would not be possible to hold elections in a number of districts in both Lugansk and Donetsk regions.
“We are fully aware…that it will no longer be possible to hold in a normal way elections on the vast territory of Donesk and Lugansk regions,” Arsen Avakov told a media conference.
That does not change anything for the coup-imposed government in Kiev who amended the election bill to remove the minimum turnout requirement.
Meanwhile, violent confrontation between Kiev and its opponents continued on election day, with shooting being reported in the Lugansk region. One person was killed and another one wounded in a shootout at a polling station in the town of Novoaydar, according to the Deputy Head of Ukraine’s Interior Ministry.
Reportedly, a column of Ukrainian National Guard armored vehicles managed to break through the protesters’ defense and was heading to Lugansk. The Kiev forces opened fire at civilians in a café in the town, an authority from the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Lugansk told RIA Novosti. “A man and a woman were killed,” the source said, adding that several people were wounded.
But the West seems to feel ok with part of Ukraine being under gunpoint.
I spent the morning observing polling stations with @NDI as #UkraineVotes. pic.twitter.com/wJAS4uwWnK
— Madeleine Albright (@madeleine) May 25, 2014