Ukrainian PM warns Russia may try to disrupt Sunday's election

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 23, 2014 7:04 AM

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk on Thursday warned of possible attempts by Russia to disrupt Sunday's parliamentary election in Ukraine and ordered a full security mobilization to prevent "terrorist acts" being carried out.

"It is clear that attempts to destabilize the situation will continue and be provoked by the Russian side. They did not succeed during the presidential election (in May) ... but their plans have remained," he told a meeting of top security chiefs and election monitors.

"We need ... full mobilization of the whole law-enforcement system to prevent violations of the election process and any attempts at terrorist acts during the elections," he said.

Yatseniuk's warning was likely to heighten tension before Sunday's poll, the first parliamentary election since the "Euromaidan" street protests last winter, which drove Moscow-backed leader Viktor Yanukovich to flee to Russia.

Western governments supported the pro-Europe protests, but Russia denounced Yanukovich's overthrow as a coup. It went on to annex Crimea and back armed revolts by separatists in eastern Ukraine, in a conflict that has killed more than 3,700 people.

"Realistically, we are in a state of Russian aggression and we have before us one more challenge - to hold parliamentary elections ... The choice (of voters) will be made by the ballot-paper and an honest expression of will and not automatic weapons," Yatseniuk said.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said 61,000 police would be responsible for guarding polling stations across the country of 46 million. Of those, 4,000 will be members of special forces who can react rapidly to any threat of "terrorist" action.

A political bloc supporting Ukraine's pro-Western president, Petro Poroshenko, is expected to emerge as the leading force in parliament. That should provide him with a mandate to press ahead with a peace plan for eastern Ukraine while pursuing the European integration that has riled Moscow.

The annexation of Crimea means the loss of 12 seats from the 450-seat parliament, and separatist action in the east will prevent polling in at least 14 voting districts there.

Separatists say they plan to hold rival elections on Nov. 2 in the territory they control to further their demands for independence.

(Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Larry King)