Ukraine Live Day 608: Demonstrators in Mariupol Protest Return of ‘Regionaires’ Amid Fears of Election Tampering

October 18, 2015
Demonstrators at a rally October 18, 2015. Signs say "Stand Up, Mariupol!"; "Stand Up Ukraine, Mariupol is in Danger"; "We Won't Surrender Mariupol to Akhmetov." Photo via

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Democratic Groups in Mariupol Protest Return of ‘Regionnaires’ and Fears of Election Tampering; Plan Protest in Kiev Tuesday

Hundreds of people gathered today from democratic groups in Mariupol to protest the return of the Regionals Party, reported.

Roman Sokolov, candidate for mayor of Maripul from the UKROP party, which is associated with oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, said (translated by The Interpreter):

“We fear that due to the situation in the city territorial elections committee, elections in Mariupol will hardly be fair. The ballots will be printed at Priyazov Worker, [oligarch Rinat] Akhmetov’s publishing house. We think that they are printing more than are needed in order to falsify the elections.”

Protesters said they believed that the Central Elections Committee had “betrayed Mariupol” and blame President Petro Poroshenko for giving the city away to the “Regionaires,” as the members of the pro-Russian Party of Regions is known, which was at one time the vehicle of deposed president Viktor Yanukovych.

According to unspecified organizers of the meeting, the city elections commission kept the democrats out of the commission and a new member of the commission from the group Solidarity supported the idea of having Akhmetov’s publishing house print the ballots.

The protesters vowed to observe the elections and publicize the records from each voting precinct to reduce chances of tampering. They also said that they will take their protest to Kiev and plan a rally there for Tuesday. Buses with activists will leave tomorrow, Monday to picket the Central Elections Commission in Kiev.

Mariupol, under Ukrainian government control, has been divided between pro-Russian and pro-Kiev sympathizers and has been frequently attacked by pro-Russian forces, notably in January 2015 when 30 civilians were killed. It is a strategically-located town on the route to a potential “land bridge” to Russian-occupied Crimea.

The Central Elections Commission announced earlier this fall that no local elections should be held in Mariupol because of the security situation — Russian tanks remain within an hour’s drive nearby, and OSCE monitors have repeatedly reported that they have not been withdrawn. But President Poroshenko urged elections to be held anyway. This has caused the local democratic forces to call for postponement of elections as they believe they will be manipulated to favor pro-Russian forces.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick