Europe

Ukraine and Russia media split on rebel vote

People stand in line to buy cheap vegetables in front of a polling station in Donetsk Image copyright AFP
Image caption Heavily discounted food was offered at polling stations

There is a mood of both scorn and apprehension in Ukraine after separatists held elections in eastern parts of the country. In Russia, though, the poll is being celebrated as a triumph of democracy.

In the Ukrainian media, the vote was almost universally condemned. Several journalists ridiculed it, arguing that the poll was not very different from elections held in the USSR. Just like in the Soviet Union, heavily discounted food was offered at polling stations to lure voters.

"Votes for vegetables" is how the poll was described by journalist Olexiy Matsuka, who is originally from Donetsk, but had to flee the city when fighting began.

He also claimed that the rebel authorities in Donetsk had set up a deliberately small number of polling stations to create artificially long lines of voters and the impression of a huge turnout.

Image copyright EPA

Another refugee journalist from Donetsk, Denys Kazansky, feels sorry for his native city.

"I pity the reasonable, sensible people who did not want to live like cattle, who did not want to be humiliated by queues to swap their vote for potatoes," he writes.

He compares the separatists' rule over the city to a natural disaster. "Donetsk has been submerged by volcanic lava, just like Pompeii. Donetsk is there no more."

There are also fears that the poll could lead to an escalation of violence, especially after President Petro Poroshenko said he would review the "special status" he granted to parts of eastern Ukraine.

"This is going to heat things up," tweeted Ukrainian journalist Nastya Stanko, arguing that there was not much point in introducing it in the first place.

For the Ukrainian media, further evidence that the crisis may take a turn for the worse came in the form of a huge Russian military convoy that allegedly crossed into Ukraine the day before the separatist vote was held.

Amateur footage of it on the streets of Donetsk was widely shown on Ukrainian TV. "The convoy consisted of at least 60 vehicles. Locals say this is the largest such convoy since the city has been taken over by the terrorists," said Ukrainian 5 Kanal TV.

'Vote for freedom'

In contrast, the pro-Kremlin media in Russia hailed the rebel poll as a triumph of democracy that "legitimised" separatist militants.

On the day of the vote, it topped the news on major Russian TV channels, which frequently showed footage of "half-a-kilometre-long" queues outside polling stations as proof of a high turnout. "Foreign observers" were also shown praising the election as free and fair.

Image copyright EPA

"There is absolutely no reason whatsoever not to recognise the obvious," presenter Dmitry Kiselev said on state-run Rossiya 1 TV.

"We have recognised the elections in Ukraine and will recognise the elections in its rebel regions," he said.

The pro-government Russian daily Izvestia also fully backed the polls. "Voters in the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics have voted for freedom" was the top headline on its website.

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