Ukraine Liveblog Day 83: Referendum Day

May 11, 2014
A ballot box today. Photo: Alexander Marquardt

Polling stations have opened in south-eastern Ukraine for the referendum on declaring independence for the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. The vote has been declared illegal by the Ukrainian, European and US leaders. Despite a public statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that the vote should be delayed, separatists have gone ahead and begun the process. There are no international observers even akin to the motley collection of European neo-Nazis and nostalgic communists assembled for the Crimean referendum held in March under Russian military occupation. The vote is likely to be declared an endorsement for secession by its organisers, raising fears that the Kremlin will make use of it, even at a later stage, (perhaps after further disruption to the May 25 Ukrainian presidential elections), as a pretext for intervention.

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

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An interactive map of the situation:

View Ukraine: April, 2014 in a larger map

For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.

Below we will be making regular updates. Be sure to check back often and hit refresh.

Claims that Mariupol Police Chief Hanged by Separatists

There are two reports around at the moment stating that the chief of police in Mariupol, Valery Andruschuk, who was abducted amidst the violence on May 9, has been hanged. We stress that these are the only two reports we have on this story, and that neither has been confirmed.

A number of Ukrainian outlets are citing an OstroV report saying that Andruschuk was found hanged yesterday near Mariupol airport. No further details are given in their citations (see here and here for example), and unfortunately, we are unable to access OstroV at the moment (this update is being written in the UK).

The other report is from a separatist news site,, the “Central Information Agency of Novorossiya”.

Firstly, it must be noted that the photo that uses has appeared before on suicide stories for a number of a years in both Russia and Azerbaijan.

The claim made is that a ‘People’s court’ sentenced Andruschuk to death for giving the order to shoot citizens of Mariupol on May 9.

The site writes that:

“The People’s court”, as an special judicial body with the rights of a military tribunal, sentenced Valery Nikolyevich Andruschuk to the supreme penalty. The sentence was carried out on an aspen tree in the woodland on the northern outskirts of Mariupol by soldiers from the ‘May 2 Remembrance ‘ battalion of the Lugansk People’s Army.

Once again, this has not been confirmed, but if true, would mark the return of the death penalty to Ukrainian soil. The death penalty is outlawed in every European country (including Russia) except Belarus. Ukraine abolished the death penalty in both peacetime and wartime in 2000. Their last execution took place in 1997.

Armed Men Stop Poll in Krasnoarmeysk

Simon Kruse, the Moscow correspondent for Berlingske, a Danish newspaper, is tweeting from Krasnoarmeysk at the moment. He was reporting there on the separatist referendum when armed men arrived to stop the voting.

Journalists Harassed in Kramatorsk

Mircea Barbu, a journalist for the Romanian newspaper Adevarul, reports on Twitter that he and his group of reporters have been ejected from a polling station and briefly detained:

Airfield Chief and 3 Employees Abducted from Kramatorsk

There are reports that separatists abducted the chief of the Kramatorsk airfield and three female employees last night.

Dmytro Tymchuk of Information Resistance wrote that one of the abducted women had been released. She reportedly had a concussion and a broken rib as a result of torture. The fate of the remaining abductees is unknown.

A similar report comes from Novosti Donbassa:

Translation: Fighters in Slavyansk have kidnapped three girls. One escaped. Broken ribs, pulled hair, they were beaten in the executive committee [administrative building] and were then transported to the police station.

Russian Journalist Ilya Azar Allowed to Vote in Mariupol

Ilya Azar, formerly of, posted the following tweet today:


they let me in to vote without a passport in Mariupol, but, of course, I didn’t interfere in the affairs of another state

He also posted the following photo of the “chaos inside the polling station”:

He also posted this photo showing yesterday’s burnt out BMP-2, now adorned with the message “BITCHES THIS IS FOR ODESSA”, and the BTR-70 that was taken from the abandoned National Guard barracks yesterday.

Voters Reportedly Allowed to Cast Ballots on Others’ Behalfs

Ukrainska Pravda reports on voters in today’s referendum being allowed to vote “for their neighbour and their wife” (translation by The Interpreter):

At polling stations, where the voting in the pseudo-referendum on the status of the Lugansk region is under way, you can vote for two people at once.

This is reported by a correspondent for 0642 on the scene.

According to them, the situation is calm at the moment, people keep coming up.

Notably, one can vote on behalf of people who are unable to come to the polling station.

One need only show one’s passport. Such incidents have already been observed.

Furthermore, Novosti Donbassa reports that a journalist, as an experiment, voted at 4 polling stations “for their neighbour and their wife”.

[Translation: In Donetsk the “referendum” is underway. A journalist for ND voted at four polling stations “for their neighbour and their wife”]

The publication also reports that anyone can bring an unlimited number of ballots with them.

[Translation: Separatist “referendum” in Donetsk: anyone can bring an unlimited number of ballots with them. even citizens of Honduras can vote.]

Voting Opens in Separatist Referendum

Here is a close view of a ballot paper for today’s referendum in Donetsk:

The question given is:

Do you support an Act of state independence for the Donetsk People’s Republic?

The votes are being cast, with a few exceptions, in public, into transparent ballot boxes, as seen in Crimea.

Ballot boxes in Donetsk. Photo: Evgeny Feldman


An exception is seen here in the village of Khryashchuvate:


An even more worrying aspect of the electoral procedure is the fact that, as far as can be seen, there is no electoral roll. This means that prevention of electoral fraud is nigh on impossible.

Mariupol-based news site, notes that voting is also taking place outside of polling booths. Voters are filling out ballots in public on tables outside, asked only to show a passport and to name the school at which they normally vote. While an organiser records voters’ names, addresses, dates of birth on a list, there is no suggestion of pre-registration. Amidst the chaos, it seems perfectly possible for a voter to walk up to another polling station, or even table to repeat their ballot. The site also says that ballots are being printed out on computer without signatures or seals.



Furthermore, as the BBC’s Daniel Sandford and Nataliya Gumenyuk of
Hromadske TV point out, there are far fewer polling stations open than
there would normally be for an election in the region. This of course
helps create an impression of a massive turnout for the cameras as large
queues form.


And indeed, large crowds have been seen:

Finally, it should not be forgotten that the referendum is being organised and held under the auspices of armed militants who have employed vioence against perceived opponents, often present with weapons in the polling stations. For example, here in Donetsk:


Christopher Miller of the Kyiv Post reports that armed men ordered journalists to stop filming votes earlier today in Donetsk.