Amid terror and fear, residents came to vote at presidential elections on May 25 in northern part of Luhansk Oblast, which is under control of Ukrainian troops.
In Svatovo, the stronghold of Ukrainian army in the region, most of the voters who came to the polls in the morning were pensioners.
“I’m sure this will help to establish peace and stability here,” said Maria Andriyivna, 60, after casting her ballot. She feared to give her last name but said she voted for Olga Bohomolets “because she is a woman who treats people.”
Natalia Reuka, also pensioner, 61, voted for Mykhailo Dobkin, a candidate for the Party of Regions, the former ruling party which used to be popular in the region but has now lost clout since the EuroMaidan Revolution on Feb. 22 overthrew its leader, President Viktor Yanukovych. She said she supported him because Dobkin was native of Kharkiv, a region close by.
She wasn’t sure her vote will have much meaning, but hoped the elections would help to placate very deep confrontation in Luhansk Oblast, which is now torn apart between people who support a united Ukraine and those who consider themselves residents of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic.
Only two out of 12 district commissions, one in Svatovo and the other in Starobilsk, opened up in these elections. So most of the voters in the oblast, with 2.6 million people, did not have the chance to vote, including people in the provincial capital of Luhansk.
Four men came to the polling station located in a school in Svatovo, asking to allow them to vote as they couldn’t do it in Luhansk. But members of the commission advised them to address to the local court for permission. The men left bewildered.
In Novoaidar, a town located on the flimsy border between areas controlled by separatists and central government, there were fears that elections would not happen in the days running up to the vote. But all the polling stations in town were open on May 25.
Members of the polling stations refused to take ballot boxes to people's homes after a group of election workers was attacked in the village of Rechishkino and lost their box.
“I think the turnout here will be less than 50 percent as we have checkpoints everywhere on the roads here and two days ago we witnessed a fierce battle near Lysychansk,” said Oksana Mordasova, head of the polling station in Novoaidar.
Editor’s Note: This article has been produced for Kyivpost with support from the project www.mymedia.org.ua, financially supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, and implemented by a joint venture between NIRAS and BBC Media Action.The content in this article may not necessarily reflect the views of the Danish government, NIRAS and BBC Action Media.