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October 20, 2020
WORLD

Ukrainians vote in key presidential election despite eastern unrest

Polls opened across much of Ukraine Sunday, despite a recent wave of deadly violence in the east and threats by pro-Russian separatists to prevent voters from casting their ballots, CNN reports.
The unrest has centered in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where separatists have claimed independence following a disputed referendum earlier this month – and many there will not get to cast a ballot.
As of 9:30 a.m. local time some 426 polling sites out of 2,430 were open in the Donetsk region, the regional administration said in a statement posted on its website.
In the city of Donetsk, the regional capital where pro-Russia militias are concentrated, there are no open polling stations at that moment, the statement said.
A CNN team driving through the city was not able to see a single polling station in operation. Residents of the southeastern city of Mariupol saw new billboards on the streets Sunday urging them not to cast their ballots. The billboards were not at their present locations the night before, residents said.
Also in Mariupol, people talked on social media about being asked by local Russia supporters to boycott the election. The city is one of several where deadly clashes have erupted in recent weeks.
Voters are choosing a successor to ousted pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych in a country torn apart by Russia’s takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and bloody conflict with pro-Russian factions.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has deployed 900 observers for the election – the largest such mission in its history. Amid the escalating tensions, claim and counterclaim have swirled.
The Prosecutor General’s office said Saturday it was investigating 83 cases of alleged interference in the election process in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
Whoever wins the presidency will face the challenge of reuniting a country that is deeply divided and in dire economic straits.
The man considered a frontrunner for the job is candy tycoon Petro Poroshenko, known as the “Chocolate King.” A billionaire businessman, he is also a seasoned politician.
Ukraine’s acting president Oleksandr Turchynov said he would cast his ballot in the capital, Kiev, on Sunday morning.
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Saturday urged all Ukrainians to go to the polls.
The self-declared mayor of rebel stronghold Slovyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, has said that anyone who tries to vote there will be arrested.
Italian journalist killed in Eastern Ukraine
An Italian journalist has been killed near the Ukrainian city of Slavyansk during a mortar attack, the Italian Foreign Ministry has confirmed. The journalist was covering the ongoing conflict in the east of Ukraine ahead of the presidential elections.
The body of the reporter has been preliminary identified as 30-year-old photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli. The Italian citizen was reportedly hit along with his interpreter, Andrey Mironov, by mortar fire on Saturday near the village of Andreevka, a couple of kilometers from Slavyansk.
Protests against Renat Akhmetov
The presidential election protest in Donetsk, attended by over 2,500 citizens and fighters of the ‘Vostok’ (East) self-defense unit that arrived at the scene on eight military Kamaz trucks, ended with a column of about 400 activists marching to the residence of Ukraine’s richest man, billionaire Renat Akhmetov, to picket the installation, rt.com informs. Akhmetov, who owns a large number of coal mines and industrial facilities in the Donetsk Region, has spoken against the independence of the region and called upon citizens to boycott the independence referendum.

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