Ukraine Live Day 651: Mariupol And Krasnoarmeysk Votes Marred By Some Irregularities And One Gross Violation

November 30, 2015
Mariupol residents submit their votes in the second round of the city's local elections on Nov. 29. Photo by Anastasia Vlasova, via The Kyiv Post

Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.

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Obama: Russian Sanctions Can Be Lifted After Minsk Implemented — No Mention Of Crimea

Many world leaders are in Paris as part of an international meeting on
combating global climate change. At the meeting, US President Barack
Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin met on the sidelines to discuss several issues, from Syria and ISIS to Ukraine. We’ve analyzed the readouts of the conversation, released by both the Kremlin and the White House, as it pertains to Syria — the hot issue at the moment. Read that here:

But buried in these statements might be an important detail about the state of negotiations concerning Ukraine.

Here is the US statement:

The last sentence:

President Obama also emphasized the important of working towards a diplomatic solution to the crisis in eastern Ukraine through the full implementation of Russia’s obligations under the Minsk agreements, noting that if Minsk is fully implemented, sanctions can be rolled back.

The first Minsk agreement was signed in September 2014, the second in February 2015. Both agreements were designed to end the fighting in the Donbass and bring about a permanent peace.

While it’s clear that Russia has consistently violated these agreements and used the ceasefire to press its military advantage in eastern Ukraine, almost all of the sanctions against Russia went into place before even the first Minsk agreement was signed. Sanctions imposed by the US and European Union very specifically targeted Russia for the illegal annexation of Crimea AND for Russian interference in eastern Ukraine, and many of the sanctions were put in place after Russia’s annexation of Crimea but before the conflict began in the Donbass.

Despite the fact that tensions are building between Russia and Ukraine, largely over Crimea at the moment, Crimea was not mentioned in the readouts put forth by either the White House nor the Kremlin.

James Miller

Ukraine Reports 35 Attacks Over 24 Hours

Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, a military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, announced this morning that one Ukrainian soldier and a civilian had been wounded over the past 24 hours by enemy fire in the Donbass.

According to Motuzyanyk, Russian-backed fighters opened fire on a car entering Donetsk, wounding the civilian occupant.  

Over that same period, the Colonel said that 35 attacks on Ukrainian positions had been conducted.

In turn, the ‘defence ministry’ of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, claimed that Ukrainian forces had violated the ceasefire nine times over the same period, attacking areas north of Donetsk and Gorlovka with mortars and canons mounted on armoured vehicles. 

Ukrainian military spokesman Leonid Matyukhin reported this morning that 13 attacks had been conducted overnight.

According to Matyukhin, Russian-backed fighters used grenade launchers, heavy machine guns and small arms to fire on Peski and Avdeyevka, north of Donetsk. Krasnogorovka, a Ukrainian-held town west of the city, was reportedly shelled with 82 mm mortars at around midnight.

In the Gorlovka area, there were grenade launcher and machine gun attacks on Zaytsevo, Luganskoye and Mayorsk, where snipers also targeted Ukrainian troops.

In the Lugansk region, Russian-backed fighters fired on Tryokhizbenka with grenade launchers.

In the south of the Donetsk region, the village of Starognatovka, east of Volnovakha, was attacked with grenade launchers, machine guns and small arms, while to the north of Volnovakha, on the highway to Donetsk, there an attack on Ukrainian positions near Novotroitskoye.

According to Aleksandr Kindsfater, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military operation in the Mariupol area, Russian-backed fighters opened fire at 20:30 yesterday evening and approached within 300 metres of the Ukrainian lines before being repelled by return fire.

— Pierre Vaux

Mariupol And Krasnoarmeysk Votes Marred By Some Irregularities And One Gross Violation

OPORA, a Ukrainian independent monitoring group, reports that most electoral wards in Mariupol and Krasnoarmeysk have finished counting ballots from yesterday’s votes and have handed their results in to the territorial electoral commission. 

As of 6 am today, 59 out of 215 wards in the Mariupol area had yet finalise their counts. In Krasnoarmeysk, 11 of 37 wards have completed counting.

Last night the Kyiv Post reported that officials claimed that the vote in Mariupol had been held “almost ideally” and that the turnout “exceeded expectations.”

“We have even fewer violations today than in previous stages of the election campaign,” said Serhiy Tkachenko, head of the Donetsk branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine election watchdog.

OPORA was also relatively positive in its assessment last night, saying that “only minor procedural violations were detected.”

Observers have noticed minor procedural violations at 24.8% polling stations in Mariupol and 8.3% in Krasnoarmiisk. In contrast to Krasnoarmiisk, the number of procedural violations in Mariupol was slightly higher than it was in context of the nationwide sampling for the second round held on 15 November 2015 (17.1%).

At the same time, there were some voting secrecy violations noticed (in particular, voting outside polling booths) at 2.8% polling stations of Krasnoarmiisk and 1.8% of Mariupol. This percentage reached 9.2% during the second round on 15 November in Ukraine.

The percentage of polling stations where voters took pictures of their ballots is similar: 2.8% in Krasnoarmiisk and 1% in Mariupol. To compare, the incidents when voters took pictures of their ballots occurred at 4.6% of polling stations in Ukraine on 15 November.

There were no attempts to issue ballot papers without passport verification, ballot-box stuffing, or absence of citizens in voter lists during the election day in Krasnoarmiisk and Mariupol.

According to the operative information received from polling stations of Mariupol, there is a probability that ballots may be considered invalid due to the absence of PEC seals on counterfoils in ballot boxes. Information will be updated as soon as there are any changes.

However today the group described an incident in Krasnoarmeysk as a gross electoral law violation “which must be immediately investigated by law-enforcement bodies in an unbiased manner.” 

Results at polling station number 141088 in Krasnoarmeysk were declared invalid after a discrepancy between the number of voters and ballot papers was detected.

Novosti Donbassa reports that OPORA and the Voters’ Committee of Ukraine said that 329 ballot papers for the election of mayoral candidates, and 343 papers for council candidiates had disappeared.

Valentin Krasnoperov, coordinator of the Strong Communities of Donetsk group, told the news site that members of his organisation had not been allowed to monitor counting at one of the tables in the ward. According to Krasnoperov, more ballot papers were piled up on this one table than the rest in the room combined. The number of signatures seen did not match with the data supplied by the Central Electoral Commission.

In Mariupol this morning, one representative from a polling station attempted to leave the Territorial Electoral Commission with ballot documents. They were noticed and prevented from leaving.  

Later today, at a press conference organised by OPORA, it was reported that the man had become tired and did not want to queue any longer to hand in his wards ballots.

According to the latest OPORA statement, 36.4% of voters in Krasnoarmeysk and 36.2% in Mariupol cast ballots yesterday. 

— Pierre Vaux