24 May 2014, 16:14

Presidential elections last chance to avoid civil war in Ukraine - journalist

Presidential elections last chance to avoid civil war in Ukraine - journalist

Dozens of people have been killed and wounded in eastern Ukraine, as the Kiev authorities intensify their punitive operation to regain control of the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, both of which held self-determination referendums on May 11, with most voters supporting independence from Ukraine. Mary Dejevsky, chief editorial writer and columnist at The Independent, expressed her opinion about attacks on media representatives in Ukraine and about what could Kiev authorities possibly do to stabilize the situation during her interview with VR.

We’re seeing more and more violence in Ukraine, directed especially against journalists. Why have attacks on media representatives intensified in the country?

I think there is a lot at stake in the run-up for the election on Sunday, and so it may be that both sides or indeed, there are more than two sides, it is getting complicated, feel that if they don’t establish their own positions now, then after Sunday it will be more difficult.

Should we expect a major violence outbreak on the day of the elections?

That is a big question. People are hoping desperately not because the best thing that could happen on Sunday would be an election that would be at least adequate in Eastern Ukraine as well as the rest of Ukraine because if there is big division or if there is evidence of unfair voting on Sunday, then the last hope of avoiding the civil war in Ukraine is gone.

With things like that it is going to be hard to showcase this is clean because if it is good election, it may be falsified somehow, in some way.

This is probably true unfortunately but it is also true that I think there is almost a record number of election observers and mostly from the OSCE, but also from elsewhere in an attempt to give this election credibility. I accept what you say about the referendum in Crimea but the problem there was less the actual conduct of the referendum. It was the fact that it was taking place so quickly and that it was seen as taking place entirely under Russian and local authority. That is why in the end it was felt, at least abroad, especially in the West, to lack credibility. So, obviously it is accepted that probably under any circumstances there would have been a guess vote. Now, there is so much more at stake with the whole of Ukraine hopefully going to vote on Sunday. But as I say, the situation in the East might make it very difficult.

What can Kiev authorities do, in your opinion, to stabilize the situation in the country, or is it too late to stabilize it?

I think it is very difficult to see how to stabilize it. I think as I say the only hope really is a credible election on Sunday, and if that election, because of the boycott or because the security situation makes it difficult or people in the East feel it undesirable to vote, that whoever is elected by the rest of the country reaches out to the East with a degree of understanding and accepts the need of federalization and devolution within the boundaries of a single Ukraine.

What do you expect the outcome of the elections will be, and what are some possible scenarios of what could happen after the elections?

The latest polls suggest that industrialist Poroshenko is ahead by quite a lot, and may actually win on the first ballot. If that is so, then probably a decisive result is highly desirable. And I think he benefits hugely from the fact that Klichko, the ex-boxer, who turned out to have quite a good political head on his shoulders, joined forces with Poroshenko, put his support behind him. What is interesting and probably will be disappointing for a generation of Ukrainians is that Yulia Timoshenko doesn’t seem to be doing very well. When she was released from prison, something which the Europeans had been demanding for a very long time, the response that she got in the streets of Kiev was probably not as enthusiastic as she and her other supporters have been hoping. So, I think the best that we can hope for is for a credible election with a decisive result. If it goes to the second round, it is fine too as long as both rounds are credible.

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