Video from Euronews:
Today was the election in Ukraine. While most of the country saw large turnout and long lines at the polls, in the East, it was another story. In the East, heavily armed pro-Russians, acting as all thugs do, blocked people from getting to polling stations and destroyed ballot boxes.
There were no immediate signs of clashes on Sunday after weeks of intense battles in a deadly insurgency. But it also appeared little voting was taking place in the east: The regional administration in Donetsk said that only 426 of 2,430 polling stations in the region were open Sunday, and none in the city of Donetsk, which has 1 million people.Putin said on Friday that he would respect the outcome of the election:
There was no voting in Luhansk, the center of the neighboring province, but some stations appeared to be open across the region, according to local officials.
“We understand and see that people in Ukraine want the country to come out of this lengthy crisis,” Putin said at a conference in St. Petersburg. “We also want the situation to become calmer. We will respect the choice made by the people of Ukraine.”Currently, polling indicates that billionaire candy maker Petro Poroshenko is in the lead. However, he falls short of the 50% needed to avoid a runoff. Nevertheless, many Ukrainians are impressed with his pragmatism. He's strongly pro-EU, yet also recognizes the need for normalized relations with Russia.
"I am convinced that this election must finally bring peace to Ukraine, stop lawlessness, stop chaos, stop bandit terror in the east," Poroshenko said after casting his ballot in central Kiev, where many people wore the traditional embroidered shirts that have become a symbol of patriotism.His closest rival is the former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who spent 2 1/2 years in prison on abuse of office charges denounced as political by the West. She is admired by many for her energy and will, but detested by just as many for her role in the political infighting that has weakened the country.
"People with weapons must be removed from Ukrainian streets, Ukrainian villages and cities," Poroshenko said.
Time will tell who ultimately wins the election. However, the actions today by the pro-Russians, orchestrated by Russia or not, can also be seen as an excuse for Russia to declare the elections "illegitimate" and continue with its policies towards Ukraine.
11:42 AM PT: NBC News is reporting exit polls are showing Poroshenko with 56% of the vote, which, if it stands will give him the absolute majority he needs to avoid a runoff.