Ukraine Liveblog Day 251: Ukraine Goes to the Polls

October 26, 2014
A woman votes in former rebel-controlled Slavyansk, now under Ukrainian control on October 26, 2014. Photo by Hromadske TV via Christopher Miller.

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

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For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.

For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: Evidence Review: Who Shot Down MH17?

Below we will be making regular updates so check back often.

Bodyguards of Radical Party Leader Oleg Lyashko Attack TSN Camera Crew

Bodyguards of Radical Party leader Oleg Lyashko attacked a TSN 1+1 camera crew, Unian reported.

The TSN journalists were trying to get an interview with Lyashko to ask him if he supported the candidacy of Arseniy Yatsenyuk for the post of Prime Minister.

Lyashko refused to answer the question from his headquarters.

So reporters followed him to another location. But on the way, two cars cut off the car in which the TSN camera crew was travelling. Some toughs jumped out of the car with “some sort of special device that blinds the eyes,” said TSN.

The bodyguards then tried to open up the car door, then began beating with their fists on the window. Only when the bodyguards saw that the cameras were turned on did they stop. Some of the incident was caught on tape:

Poroshenko Vows to Accept Coalition Nomination for PM; Popular Front’s Turchynov Nominates Yatsenyuk
President Petro Poroshenko said his bloc will form the basis for the
parliamentary coalition that he hopes will be completed within 10 days.

At a briefing today October 26, Poroshenko said (translation by The Interpreter):

coalition agreement will be immediately published as soon as it is
passed. As for the time periods, I hope that the 10 days which the law
provides for a final announcement of the results of the parliamentary
elections are more than enough to complete the negotiations both for the
nomination of prime minister and for speaker, and to form the
government and the leading bodies of parliament.

Poroshenko vowed to nominate the candidate for prime minister that the coalition proposes.

will not engage in intrigue. As president, fulfilling my constitution
obligations, I will make the candidate for prime minister that the
parliamentary coalition proposes.”

Asked specifically who he would propose as prime minister, Poroshenko said:

you want to hear the names of ministers, speakers and other officials, I
urge you not to repeat that question beccause it is the job of the
people’s deputies, their responsibility, they must demonstrate the
ability not to make a deal but to take general responsibility for the
fate of the government.”

Earlier, a source in the Popular Front, led by current prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, reportedly said that they would demand that their leader keep his job as prime minister as a quid pro quo to cooperate with Poroshenko’s bloc.

Now parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Turchynov, nominated to parliament by the Popular Front, has gone on the record calling for Yatsenyuk to keep the job of prime minister RIA Novosti reported.

“The support of the People’s Front indicates that our Ukrainian
citizens, our wise Ukrainians have recognized the professionalism of the
incumbent prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, as well as his readiness
to work in difficult and dangerous conditions,” Turchynov stressed.

Turchynov formerly served as acting president after the Maidan protests swept away former president Viktor Yanukovych.

Suspects Detained in Assault on Journalists Running for Parliament

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry (MVD) and Security Service (SBU) have arrested suspects in the attack on the journalist candidates for the parliament, Ukrainska Pravda reported. Markiyan Lubkivsky, a spokesman for the SBU, made a statement (translation by The Interpreter):

Through their joint efforts, the MVD and the SBU have detained attackers in less than 9 hours from the moment of their assault on the candidates to the parliament. Now they are being taken for interrogation and the conduct of investigative actions to Znamenka.

Law-enforcers first detained one suspect, and then he gave testimony about the others, Ukrainska Pravda reported earlier.

The names of the suspects were not provided.

As we reported earlier,  Sergii Leshchenko and Mustafa Nayyem, two anti-corruption journalists who are running in the elections, suffered an attack with rocks on their car by several men this morning. Ukrainska Pravda reported that a third person was hit in the attack, Svetlana Zalishchuk.

Popular Front Demands Yatsenyuk Keep Prime Minister Post to Cooperate with Poroshenko Bloc: Ukrainska Pravda Source
In order to join the coalition in parliament led by the Petro Poroshenko bloc, the Popular Front, led by Arseniy Yatsenyuk will demand that Yatsenyuk keep his post as prime minister of Ukraine, and that Aven Avakov remain as interior minister, Ukrainska Pravda reported, citing a source in the Popular Front. Justice and finance ministers should also remain unchanged.

“As for the position of speaker (Oleksandr Turchinov) — that’s on Poroshenko’s conscience,” said the source.

Lyashko, Avakov Said They Will Work with ‘Democratic Forces’ in New Parliament
Despite getting just 5-6% in the exit polls, Oleh Lyashko has said he is satisfied with the results of the election so far, Ukrainska Pravda reports.
He believes that he will get at least 15 deputies from the Radical
Party into the parliament because there are still the votes from the
districts by majoritarian vote, not by party list. He said his party
would join with other “democratic forces” in the new parliament.

Avakov, the Interior Minister and member of the political council of
the Popular Front led by Arseniy Yatsenyuk, said he will “work with the
Petro Poroshenko” bloc and is “prepared to unite with all democratic
forces,” Novoye Vremya in Ukraine reported.

with his customary bluntness, he said “Democratic forces are those
forces that are democratic, not to be confused with the pederastic and
those from the past regime.”

President Poroshenko said
at a briefing for the press today October 26 that there will also be
some structural as well as political changes coming to the parliament.

number of committees will be reduced, as this was “a source of
corruption,”  he said. And the number of positions in the government
will also be reduced.

Coalition consultations will start tomorrow, “not about seats and quotas about reforms,” he said.

Exit Polls Show Petro Poroshenko Bloc, Popular Front, Samopomich Lead, Radical Party and Svoboda Have Cleared 5% to Enter Parliament

The counting has been under way for hours in the Ukrainian elections, but exit polls have meant that the results are already being called by analysts.

According to exit polls as of 8:00 pm this evening local time, it seems fears of a huge surge from the ultrarightists was misplaced — the Radical Party of Oleh Lyashko and Svoboda led by Oleg Tyahnybok have just squeaked by.

Unian reports that according to the All-Ukrainian Television exit polls, Petro Poroshenko Bloc (24.3%), Popular Front (21.8%), Samopomich (12.5%), the Radical Party (7.1%), the Opposition Bloc (6.6%), Svoboda (6.3%) and Batkivshchina (6%) have all made it into the parliament.

According to TSN, parties that didn’t muster the 5% threshold needed to obtain a seat are: Civic Position, the Communist Party, Strong Ukraine, Right Sector, and Spade, the agrarian party.

The findings of other reporters and international monitors are similar, but have Lyashko’s Radical Party doing less well (6.4% from the National and International exit polls).

Here is an infographic comparing four different sets of exit polls done by Ukrainska Pravda:


The results have been perceived as negative or positive depending on pre-existing positions:

Translation: in Kiev, according to exit-polls, Samopomich is
leading, and Jarosz [Right Sector] is leading in one of the majoritarian

Regardless of interpretations within the parliamentary context, where even small parties can have an influence, with more than 50% of the electorate turning out, the results are likely not to be contested by the international community. Russia has also said it would accept these results.

Darth Vader Barred from Voting in Kiev After Refusing to Remove Mask

Darth Vader, a candidate in Ukraine’s parliamentary elections today, was banned from voting after he refused to remove his mask at a polling station in Kiev, Christopher Miller of Mashable reports.

The Sith Lord protested, saying he had legally changed his name. He is running on the ticket of the Internet Party, where Emperor Palpatine, Princess Amidalla and other Star Wars’ characters are featured.

See Darth Vader Denied Vote in Ukraine Elections

The candidates filed papers keeping their Slavic first names and
patronymics, resulting in “Stepan Chewbacca” and “Master Vladimirovich

The Internet Party is not just a prank; it grew out of a son’s
disenchantment with his politician father’s views in the Party of

See also our translation Who Are Ukraine’s “Darth Vaders?” The Masks Are Off: An Insider Look At The Internet Party

Relatively Low Reports Of Election Violations

Ukraine’s democracy still has plenty of growing pains. Despite reports of relatively few violations of voting rules, there are still violations. Kyiv Post reports:

Interior Ministry  reported nearly 161 violations during the voting in the elections to the Verkhovna Rada as of 2. a.m. “In particular, there were 14 cases of bribery of voters, 12 reports about presincts being mined, 10 cases of administrative abuse, seven incidents with dissemination of false information , and four cases of damage of bulletins,” – said the statement. Besides, police investigates the loss of official stamp by the local election commission chair.

Euromaidan Press is also carrying a report that compared to previous elections this one appears to suffer from relatively low amounts of fraud:

[Oleksiy Koshel, chair of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine] said that the CVU has about four thousand observers in all oblasts and regions of the country, except the Crimea. At the moment these observers have registered 350 violations of election law, but more than 80% of the information on violations received from the observers constitute minor technical violations related to procedural aspects, said the CVU Chair.

“Compared with the 2012 elections we registered three times less violations at this time. There is no serious evidence that could point to electoral fraud,” he added.

If these numbers hold and no major allegations of fraud come to light this would be a marked improvement in Ukraine’s elections. The problem is that unlike in the Presidential election, where Petro Poroshenko won by a significant margin, relatively low amounts of fraud could have an impact on the election in some regions or municipalities.

The ultimate say on this matter will come when international groups which are observing this election release their own reports. Journalist Jamie Kirchick is one such observer, and so far indications are positive.

Journalists-Turned-Candidates Whose Car Was Attacked Are Anti-Corruption Crusaders

As we reported earlier, a car belonging to two journalists-turned-parliamentary-andidates, Sergii Leshchenko and Mustafa Nayyem, was attacked earlier today. Both candidates are uninjured.

Leshchenko has sent two tweets since the incident. The first was a news story about the incident. This is the second: 

The New York Times article highlights the world of the two anti-corruption campaigners and was published yesterday:

As two of Ukraine’s best-known investigative journalists, Sergii Leshchenko and Mustafa Nayyem showed a boundless zeal for exposing corruption and hypocrisy at the highest levels of government. So it set heads spinning within the country’s political and media elite last month when they suddenly announced that they were not only jumping the fence to run for Parliament, but also joining the establishment as candidates of President O. Poroshenko’s coalition party.

Or at least that’s how it seemed. In a sign of how hard it can be to kick old habits, Mr. Leshchenko and Mr. Nayyem have spent the final week of the campaign not working to promote themselves, but rather crusading to defeat a candidate supported by their own party — a former official in the Kiev city government, whose front-runner status in this rural district 250 miles south of the capital, they say, was the result of corrupt back-room dealing approved by someone close to Mr. Poroshenko, if not by the president himself.

“We want to demonstrate to society and to our political party at the same time that we are not going to tolerate this corrupt conspiracy,” Mr. Leshchenko said, sitting in the passenger seat of a white S.U.V. with a large red decal that said “Stop Corrupt Politicians” plastered on its front hood. Sounding genuinely torn, he added, “The most difficult part for us to accept was that we were going to fight against Poroshenko.”

That such infighting would start so fast and so furiously — even before Sunday’s vote — offers a glimpse of just how tumultuous politics remain in Ukraine eight months after the ouster of President Viktor F. Yanukovych, with a war against pro-Russian separatists still simmering in the east, hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes, Crimea annexed by Russia and an economy ever on the brink of collapse.

The article describes how, despite the significant changes in Ukraine’s political landscape, some of the entrenched culture of corruption remains, and big business still reigns supreme. Read the entire article here.

Turnout Already More than 40%

According to the Central Election’s Commission’s website, more than 40% of registered voters have already cast a ballot (note — the website says these numbers are as of 17:57 local time, so within the last 15 minutes:


Car Belonging To Candidates Attacked In Central Ukraine
A disturbing report today:

RFE/RL reports:

Mustafa Nayem says seven unknown assailants attacked his car, carrying him and two other parliamentary candidates, this morning. According to a post on Facebook, the attack took place between the villages of Kazarnya and Subotsi in central Ukraine. He says the night before he had reported a group of “unknown young men” to police. 

Nayem, is credited by some as the man who instigated the Euromaidan protests last year. He is vying for a parliamentary seat in the Petro Poroshenko bloc that is expected to win a plurality of the vote. 

But this may not be the only car attacked today. Kyiv Post is carrying this picture of a car reportedly shot up today near Kryvyi Rih (Krivoy Rog) in Dnipropetrovsk Region. 


Ukraine Says It Has Disrupted An Election Fraud Ring

According to a statement published on an official Ukrainian government website today, the Minister of Interior Affairs, Arsen Avakov, has announced that an electoral fraud ring has been disrupted in Kiev:

Minister Avakov reported that a warehouse in Kyiv had been found. This warehouse contained illegal printed matter containing false information and defamed political parties and parliamentary candidates from certain parties. In addition, investigators found a large circulation newspaper campaign in support of one of the political forces. According to current information, the organization was hired by one of the political parties and the illegal material was published at a press in Kyiv Oblast.

He said that the police seized more than 2.5 million copies of printed materials, but estimate that the total circulation of illegal campaign material may have been around 7 million copies. Copies of the pblications had been sent to Poltava, Rivne, Dnipropetrovsk, and Sumy oblasts. Police arrested eight suspects.

Minister Avakov claimed that the police will be able to prevent the spread of 80-90 per cent of the illegal products. He also emphasized that the recently adopted Law of Ukraine raised the liability for bribing voters and for contributing to this. The responsibility for such violations can range from a fine of several thousand hryvnia to 8 years in prison.

Less Fighting In Ukraine As Elections Take Place with Few Reported Problems
Every morning there is a security briefing from Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council. Here are the official tweets from the briefing:
Below was their first update about problems getting all election centers open:
As you can see, that’s a high percentage of polling places open, and things improved from there:
Also good news, the elections appear to have brought with them diminished fighting over the last several days.
But there are still claims of Russian interference in the east.
We’re not sure what this “terrorist attack” is, but perhaps more details wil be available soon.
A Quick Look At Where There Is No Voting In Ukraine
13% of Ukraine will not hold elections today because of the fighting in the east. Hromadske TV has made this map which shows where there will be no voting in the areas controlled by Russian-backed separatists (hat-tip Reddit):
We’d note, however, that this is only a projection. Schastye, north of Lugansk, appears to be colored green on this map, but as we reported earlier voting was blocked by Russian-backed fighters.
Turnout High Despite Security Concerns, Bomb Scares

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko is praising the high turnout in today’s elections, according to Kyiv Post:

“The turnout is very high. There’re not any major accidents during these elections which respond to all the European standards,” Poroshenko said to the press in the Officers’ House. “An order in the country is not determined by the number of thieves, but by the goverment’s ability to fight them.” 

All the reports we’re seeing from across Ukraine seem to indicate good turnout, and this is despite bomb threats that have been closing some polling stations temporarily. Kyiv Post reports:

Seven polling stations in Mykolayiv, southern Ukraine, received threats about the bombs and were forced to shut down temporarily. Cynological services have checked the buildings and have not found any explosives. After calls about the bombs turned out to be fake, the polling stations resumed their work.

A polling station in Kharkiv Oblast’s constituency 180, which is Nova Vodolaga, also received a fake phone threat about mines at the election day. The night before, an anonymous informed police about explosives in the school building which hosts three polling stations of 171 constituency in Kharkiv. It was a fake message too, police detained the hooligan.

In western Ukrainian city of Rivne a police officer on duty at one of the polling stations received a phone message about the “explosives nearby” and another one in which he was advised to look after a woman with a grey package. The information was also fake, the polling station is open again. – Interior Ministry’s press service,

Earlier we reported that there will be six polling stations in Russia where Ukrainians will be allowed to vote. RFE/RL reports that turnout is very low at the polling station in Moscow:

The Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow said that 167 people had voted by noon at its polling station. There are 5 other polling stations in cities elsewhere in Russia, according to Interfax. 

Elections in Ukraine Proceeding With Just a Few Incidents and Hitches has a liveblog on the elections today (in Russian).

Some highlights:

– Natalya Linnik, deputy director of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine said that up to 57% of residents of the Donbass may take part in the vote.

– Today there were a number of shelling incidents — in Nikishino, Debaltsevo, Chernukhino, Zolotoy and Avdeyevka, as well as the Donetsk Airport.

– Ukraine has turned out 84,425 policemen all over the country to maintain order during the elections; of these 59,759 are assigned to guard the polling stations and security the election documentation at the precincts; 19,685 are providing public order on the streets and 4,981 are on reservice in there is an emergency.

– At 9:46, 15 election commissions had still not begun work, but in 29,692 others, there were no problems.

– In Kharkov, a polling station was reported to be mined. Sappers came to the building but found no explosives. The station was re-opened and voting proceeding normally.

– In Volnovakh, not all members of the elections commission showed up, and elections are in jeopardy.

– In Dnepropetrovsk Region, due to a mistake in the lists of candidates which affected 20,000 ballots, there aren’t enough ballots in district no. 37.

Aidar Fighters Protest Closure of Polls in Schastye

Fighters in the Aidar Battalion are protesting the closure of the polls in Schastye, Unian reports, citing TSN.

TSN reported that authorities decided not to open the polls due to “the threat of terrorist attacks.” They are afraid that they “cannot guarantee complete security for voters, election commission members and observers” in this town on the frontline of the battle.

Aidar members are patrolling the streets, but unable to vote.

“We categorically consider this pointless. The authorities in the person of the deputies have deprived us of our constitutional right to vote,” said a fighter who did not give his name.

Unian said that some candidates were insisting that they could run the elections even under shell fire.

Ukraine Turns Its Clocks Back One Hour Today for Winter Time

Ukraine turned its clocks back one hour today to move to winter time, Unian and other local media reported.

However, unlike Russia, which has decided to remain on winter time permanently, Ukraine will turn its clocks ahead an hour on March 29, 2015 for spring time.

Meanwhile, the clocks will not move in the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” today, which has decided to change to Moscow time.

Six Polling Stations in Russia Available for Ukrainians, But Distance Likely to Reduce Turn-Out
Six polling stations have been opened in Russia for Ukrainian citizens to vote in the parliamentarian elections, Unian reports. They are in the following cities:

St. Petersburg
Nizhny Novgorod

OSCE observers are present at the polls in Moscow, and more than 50 foreign and Russian journalists have been accredited to cover the elections.

About 26,000 citizens of Ukraine who registered with the Ukrainian consulate are eligible to vote, along with an additional 247 who came in person before the deadline of October 20.

However, because 17 regions of Russia are assigned to vote in Moscow, most Ukrainian citizens are not likely to make a long trip to vote. Most of those who will take part in the elections will be those already living in Moscow or Moscow Region or consulate workers said Viktor Girzhov, head of the election commission at the consulate.

85% of Polls Open in Slavyansk

Not all the voting stations are open in Slavyansk, Unian reports, citing Radio Svoboda.

About 40 minutes after the polls opened, about 85% of the stations were open in election district no. 47.

Voting Blocked in Schastye by Russian-Backed Fighters
Residents of Schastye are unable to vote in the elections, reported, citing RIA Novosti

Local residents and fighters from the Aidar battalion cannot vote, since the election precinct is closed due to the unstable situation in Schastye.

According to an October 20 report from RIA Novosti Aleksandr Bednov, commander of the “militia” of the self-proclaimed “Lugansk People’s Republic,” the militants stormed Schastye in order to take control of the Lugansk Power Station. The power station has been hit by shelling and caught fire several times in recent months.

About 200 Ukrainian forces were said to be surrounded outside Bakhmutovka, near Schastye in Lugansk Region.

Polls Open in Ukraine’s Election

The polls opened at 8:00 local Kiev time today (GMT+3) in the parliamentary elections, called by President Petro Poroshenko in August.

 About 13% of the electorate in the Donbass will not be voting due to the war and calls by Russian-backed separatists not to participate in the elections. 

About 1.8 million people will not vote in Russian-occupied Crimea, BBC reports.

For an excellent explainer of the Ukrainian elections, see Hromadske’s article on Medium.

Another primer was made by the European Council on Foreign Relations. Atlantic Council also has an article and a “poll of polls.”

Translation: the elections have begun in Slavyansk.