The Ukrainian people will elect a new president tomorrow. The chocolate-king Petro Poroshenko is ahead in the polls, supported by the popular former boxer Vitaly Klitschko and a majority of the people west of the Dnieper. Poroshenko backed the uprising in Kyiv and is viewed as a moderate, honest, a good businessman. He has said he would call for new Parliamentary (Verkhovna Rada) elections if elected, which would be the best thing he could do to start off.
Of course, the big problem is Lugansk and Donetsk oblasts. Thugs with weapons of war have warned there will be no elections. Some two million people in this Donbass region could be deprived of the right to vote.
The vigilantes are killing soldiers and civilians, making death threats, taking over polling places and election commissions, increasing violence and provocative language to scare people from voting. Many citizens won't vote at the point of a gun, in front of tanks, and I don't blame them.
My activist friends have been threatened. A couple are on local election commissions, several are poll workers, another is working with OSCE (the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe), a monitoring group. "People are risking their lives for a vote," friend Tonya told me. "The bandit terrorists are now in Rubejnoye, a town next to Starobelsk, and threatening violence to stop the election."
What an outrageous situation: These self-styled pro-Russian separatists using terror tactics and guns to stop Ukrainians from voting in a legal Ukrainian election. I think more and more people, even initial supporters and those on the fence, have had enough of these gunmen.
But despite the murder and mayhem they have unleashed (they should be arrested and charged with crimes against humanity), they can't stop the election altogether. My friends in Starobelsk and area are hoping for a large voter turnout in the rest of the country. 'We don't care who they vote for, as long as they vote." That would send such an important message. The world needs to see that Ukrainians east and west want self-determination and the right to shape their own future. Maybe a new president will be able to put an end to the violence and bring peace to the region where a majority wants to be part of a stronger united Ukraine. Maybe a new president will not tolerate corruption and injustice, start over, and strive to build a government responsive to the needs of all the people. Hope springs eternal. удачи, Украина.