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Elections in the Donbas will freeze the conflict by the example of Transnistria

Elections in the Donbas will freeze the conflict by the example of Transnistria
Photo: Reuters

Yesterday the elections took place in the breakaway republics of the Donbas, at which people elected the leaders and deputies of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. Kyiv and western community do not recognize the elections and urged Russia to refrain from their legitimization. But regardless of Moscow’s decision, experts say the Donbas will turn into the zone of destabilization in Ukraine.

Indicative turnout

Yesterday head of the Central Election Commission of the DPR Roman Lyagin said that 355 voting stations were opened on the territory of the self-proclaimed republic and the number of voters exceeded one million. The neighboring LPR prepared almost two million ballots for the elections, but decided not to publish the information about the number of voters and the voting stations. Noteworthy, the voting stations were also opened in the three neighboring oblasts of the Russian Federation.

Election officials mentioned the high turnout, and to prove it the media provided some materials depicting long queues at the voting stations. At the same time, according to the information from the LPR, 38% of constituents voted by Sunday evening, and the CEC of the DPR reported that by the middle of the day almost half of the voters came to the stations. It is impossible to verify such statistics, as all known international organizations rejected observation of such elections. “We may only take a guess regarding the current exact number of voters in the region and the number of those, who came to the stations,” said Press Secretary of the Donetsk branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine Oleksander Ivanov.

Head of one of the electoral commissions in Donetsk on condition of anonymity said in a conversation with Capital that the turnout at the elections in the oblast center is clearly lower than at the May referendum. “People who became disenchanted with the idea of the DPR did not come. Because of the war salaries and pensions are no longer paid in Donetsk, and people had to re-register them in the cities controlled by Ukrainian government,” said the source. The source believes the turnout was also influenced by the fear of provocations, which were much talked about before the elections.

Shortly before the election day Kyiv started an active campaign on the illegality of the election in the Donbas, during which the SBU made numerous statements regarding possible provocations with a view to accuse Ukrainian authorities in frustration of the electoral process. However, no incidents were reported at the time of printing of the issue. On the election day the SBU announced opening of criminal proceedings against the organizers of the elections in the breakaway republics.

As a reminder, the elections took place based on proportional representation with a voting threshold of 5%. Three candidates ran for the office of the head of the DPR, including incumbent “Prime Minister” of the DPR Oleksandr Zakharchenko. Only two public associations take part in the parliamentary elections – the Donetsk Republic and the Free Donbas. Among the candidates in the LPR is its current head Ihor Plotnytskiy, running against three competitors. Three associations compete for the seats in the People’s Council of the LPR – the Peace for Luhansk, the Luhansk Economic Union and the People’s Union.

Waiting for peacekeepers

Professor of the International Relations and Foreign Policy Department at the Donetsk National University Ihor Todorov believes the people in power will win the elections in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. “The script of the elections was not written in Donetsk or Luhansk. In truth, it was quite predictable – only the right people will be elected. Just as during the so-called “referendum” on May 11, they created the appearance of a plebiscite,” he said. Todorov predicts that the main purpose of the election is the “preservation of an island of destabilization in Ukraine”.

“The Kremlin enacts the scenario tested in Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It will recognize the new leadership in the pseudo-republics. I believe in the future the DPR and the LPR will declare a full breach in relations with Ukraine and their intention to create a state called “Novorossiya”,” said Director of the Foreign Policy Institute Hryhoriy Perepelytsia. He did not rule out that the statements of the authorities of the breakaway republics would be accompanied by the escalation of the military conflict in the region.

At the same time, international affairs expert Serhiy Tereshko is not sure that Russia will immediately fulfill its promises to recognize the elections in the LPR and the DPR. “It is advantageous for Moscow to keep the conflict in a frozen state. But, I am convinced that there is a possibility the authorities of the republics will turn to Russia for protection and it will deploy its peacekeepers in the Donbas region. That is precisely what happened in Georgia, so this is a quite possible option in the situation in the east of Ukraine,” said Tereshko.

Noteworthy, on the eve of the elections in the Donbas Russia sent another humanitarian convoy to the region. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry stated “that this was an indication of the orientation of Russia towards further escalation of the conflict in east of Ukraine”.

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