Donbass, a vote without democracy

Elections in the region near Russia are yet another threat to national unity. The positions of Kiev, Brussels and Moscow " "

Further tensions between Ukraine, Russia and the European Union. This time, the bone of contention is Donbass, a bordering territory devastated by the war where past Sunday national elections were held without the recognition of Kiev, European Union and the United States, but with the green light of Moscow. The elections, won by the pro-Russian, pro-independence movement, signalled the victory of Alexander Zakharchenko in Donetsk and Igor Plotnitsky in Lugansk, already at the helm of regions before the vote. With them were elected the parliaments of the two regions, which are thus further away from Kiev. The voice of Europe. There was an immediate reaction by the Ukrainian president-elect Petro Poroshenko who described elections a “pantomime under the threat of tanks” and made known that he launched an investigation against the organizers of the elections for “actions aimed at overthrowing the constitutional order and at the conquer of power”.The episode was commented in a statement by the head of EU diplomacy, Federica Mogherini, who branded the elections as “illegal”.From Brussels, Mogherini reiterated that the elections are “invalid” and are considered “a new obstacle in the quest for a peaceful resolution of the conflict”.Conversely, Moscow recognised the validity of the elections. “Elections in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions took place in an organized manner and with a high turnout”, made known the Russian foreign minister, pointing out he will respect “the will expressed by South-East citizens”. “Illegitimate vote”. The outcome “is negative and worrying, albeit foreseeable”. Professor Aldo Ferrari, director of research on Russia, Caucasus and Central Asia for ISPI studies centre in Milan. Commenting on the Ukrainian elections, Ferrari said that the outcome “was totally expected given the ongoing warfare” in the region of Donbass, “where the only organized armed forces are pro-Russian ones. In this situation, even those who disagreed were not given the possibility of organizing themselves politically. Moreover, many people have fled from their homes so there is no reliable data on the turnout. Therefore the elections are not only illegitimate and unacceptable from an international standpoint, they are also poorly representative”.The Professor pointed out that the Donbass region is not the only case of separatist regions which have gained to de facto independence status within the ex-Soviet Union territories. The others are: Nagorno Karabakh, a self-proclaimed republic independent from Azerbaijan; Abkhazia in South Ossetia in the Caucasus and Transnistria in the territory of Moldova. But while these territories are considered not very important on the international European scenario, Donbass is a different case, as it is a much more populated region, certainly more important from the economic standpoint, since it is the major industrial centre in Ukraine. For Ferrari “the risk at this point is almost a certainty, given that the outcome of the elections and Moscow’s intention of recognizing a new de facto and not de jure State, is worming its way through as a wedge inside Ukraine and in Russia-Western world relations”.From the international angle it must be borne in mind that Ukraine cannot join NATO owing to an article preventing access to Countries with territorial disputes at national level. “From this perspective, Donbass and Crimea are factors that prevent full adhesion to Ukraine and NATO. In this way the situation is growing worse”. Threat of weapons. Strong reactions in Kiev against the electoral outcome in the Donbass region. “These are not elections – said Jesuit priest Fr Andriy Zelinskyy before entering the hall where he teaches in Kiev -. The apparent democracy in reality was a real and true pantomime. People voted under threat of weapons. How could these ever be considered free elections? This pantomime was necessary for Russia to continue its politics”.Even the priest recalls that the unfolding of events in east Ukraine is similar to what happened in the small autonomous Republic of Transnistria where Russia still maintains its influence. “The basic problem – concluded Fr Zelinskyy- is that Europe and Russia are talking in completely different languages. Europe uses pragmatic categories while Putin uses a language that is a remnant of Communist ideology. This language was revisited through contemporary lenses and concealed by democracy, while in fact it adopts the same old mechanisms”.

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