Sunday, November 28, 2004
Violence at the Ukrainian polls
The Sunday Telegraph details the extent of the Ukrainian election fraud:
It was 5.30pm on election day in Ukraine when the thugs in masks arrived armed with rubber truncheons.
Vitaly Kizima, an election monitor at Zhovtneve in Ukraine's Sumy region, watched in horror as 30 men in tracksuits stormed into the village polling station.
"They started to beat voters and election officials, trying to push through towards the ballot boxes," he told The Telegraph.
"People's faces were cut from blows to the head. There was blood all over."
The thugs - believed to be loyal to the pro-Russian presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovich from his stronghold, Donetsk - were repulsed only when locals pushed them back and a policeman fired warning shots.
Maya Syta, a journalist working at polling station 73 in a Kiev suburb, witnessed ballot papers destroyed with acid poured into a ballot box. "The officials were taking them out of the box and they couldn't understand why they were wet," she said.
"Then I saw they started to blacken and disintegrate as if they were burning. Two ballots were wrapped up into a tube with a yellow liquid inside. After a few moments they were completely eaten up."
The most common trick was "carousel" voting, in which busloads of Yanukovich supporters simply drove from one polling station to another casting multiple false absentee ballots.
In another brazen fraud recorded by observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, voters were given pens filled with ink that disappeared, leaving ballots unmarked and invalid.
Despite talk of an East-West showdown, many Ukrainians protesting about the election result say that Mr Yanukovich's criminal background is unacceptable, not his bias towards Russia.
The prime minister was twice convicted for robbery and battery in his youth and is seen as the protege of a group of business oligarchs known as "the Donetsk fellas" from the eastern region where he was once governor.
"How could they dare try to impose such a bandit on us?" asked Yuri, who was ferrying protesters to Kiev's Independence Square yesterday in a car festooned with orange streamers. "We will never accept it."