The UN’s human rights representative in Ukraine has warned that a dark shadow looms over the prospect of holding next weekend’s presidential election in eastern Ukraine.
After visiting Donetsk in the east and Odessa in the south, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović said the situation had deteriorated so much that the region could collapse.
“I felt in Donetsk fear. And it is widespread. And the fear is not only related to security challenges its also related to common criminality,” he said.
Šimonović added that he had received numerous reports of intense pressure being put on election officials in the region, which could put in doubt the possibility of holding the May 25 elections.
“Well, we do have information on a number of presidents, of vice presidents of electoral commissions being abducted, being maltreated with implications for a number of other members of the commissions. There is intimidation. So besides direct security challenges there are also technical problems concerning how holding of elections,” Šimonović said.
Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has said there has been an increasing number of separatist attacks on polling stations in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, with the objective of disrupting Sunday’s elections.
NATO’s secretary-general has again called on Moscow to adopt what he calls a more constructive attitude in talking to Kyiv, saying there was no military solution to the crisis.
“This is an important opportunity to find a peaceful way forward for a united Ukraine. Any efforts to delay or disrupt the elections would be an attempt to deny the Ukrainian people their choice,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.
Russia’s foreign minister has said Moscow’s ties with the EU and with NATO need a rethink in the light of deep differences over Ukraine.
Sergey Lavrov said the priority was to stop the military activity in the east.
“Obviously, the first step is to cease the military operation and the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe) mission representatives in Ukraine who are based close to the battle zone should take up the initiative and act as mediators to discuss the steps to de-escalate the situation,” he told a news conference.