A new collection of perfectly timed shenanigans in Ukraine has coincided with the special presidential election which could significantly disrupt the process. The polls in Ukraine have opened and logistics have already been affected.
Complicating the process further, leaders of the newly independent regions of Donetsk and Luhansk announced the formation of partnernership in an autonomous union Saturday. Live updates from are available from Mashable and Russia Today.
It was also reported that a series of cyberattacks specifically on the country’s election computer systems may force manual vote counts which will take longer to confirm. The troubling part which puts the information in a question is that part of the attack was said to have happened prior to February when former President Yanukovych was ousted from power during the Kiev protests.
Ukraine’s Security Service claims that it has removed a virus at the Central Election Commission’s server, designed to delete the results of the presidential vote. According to the interior minister the cyber-attack may force a ‘manual vote count.’
“The virus has been eliminated, software is replaced. So, we now have the confidence that the Central Election Commission’s server is safe,” Valentin Nalivaychenko, SBU head, is cited by UNN news agency. He is cited as saying that the virus was meant to destroy the results of presidential election on May 25.
However the CEC programmers may not be able to fix the system in time for the elections, coup-installed Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced on his website.
“On May 22 unknown intruders destroyed the ‘Elections’ information-analytical system of the Central Elections Commission, including those of the regional election commissions.”
“Criminal negligence of some of the CEC officials led to a very late reporting of this issue to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Security Service,” Avakov wrote. As a result, “programmers so far failed to fix the CEC equipment,” the minister said announcing that fixing the problem in time for the vote count is “impossible.”
Avakov assured this is not a “catastrophe” and said that counting may be done manually, claiming this way Ukraine will have “more reliable results.”
At the same time, Nalivaychenko did not mention any intruders but claimed the harmful program was “illegally” installed on the server under the previous government of President Viktor Yanukovich, who was overthrown via an armed coup in February.
On Friday, UNN reported about a hacker attack, which made the Central Election Commission’s website inoperable for several hours.
The agency’s “informed source” claimed the perpetrators tried to steal data for the Commission’s sever and thereby disrupt the Sunday’s election.
However, the source failed to clarify how the information theft could affect the vote, saying that the lost data has to be analyzed first.
Foreign ministry confirms border crossing
A group of heavily armed men was said to have crossed the border in 5 trucks accompanied by 2 cars carrying more support. The foreign ministry has not come forward with many details.
On Saturday at 4 am the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine recorded another fact of unauthorized border crossings from the Russian Federation near a checkpoint in the area “Dibrovka” (Donetsk region) – 5 trucks and 2 passenger cars with armed men.
As reports the Department of the information policy of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s, officials in Kyiv are convinced that “this provocation took place with the direct participation and encouragement by the Russian border guards.”
“Organized by the Russian authorities penetration on the territory of Ukraine of armed terrorist groups is nothing else but another act of aggression against our country, cynical disregard by Russian of norms and principles of international law. We appeal to the entire international community to immediately take all possible measures in order to stop the aggressor, not to let them to destroy the process of democratic will of the Ukrainian people,” – Department said in a statement
Two international journalists have been confirmed killed in fighting near Slavyansk. The news comes a day after it was widely reported that the captured Russian journalists from LifeNews.ru had been released and flew back to Russia on Sunday.
An Italian reporter and his interpreter have reportedly been shot dead and a French photographer has been wounded near the city of Slavyansk, in eastern Ukraine, as their car came under mortar fire.
The injured French journalist, William Roguelon, has been taken to a local hospital where he received treatment and managed to leave the facility on his own. He described how out of nowhere their vehicle was bombarded with mortar shells.
“Before that we heard Kalashnikov shots,” Roguelon was quoted by the Italian tgcom24. “Then the mortar shells rained down all around,” he said claiming to have heard up 60 explosions as they tried to hide in the “middle of a ditch.”
The man, who works as a freelance photographer, has told Russian media that after the shooting he saw his Italian colleagues lying on the ground not moving, Rossiya 24 channel reported.
“In the village of Andreyevka, not far from Slavyansk, an Italian journalist and his interpreter have been shot dead and a French correspondent wounded. Their car came under fire,” a source from the self-defense forces has told Ria Novosti.
The Italian journalist has been identified as Andrea Rocchelli, while the interpreter is believed to be Russian national Andrey Mironov, who was holding an Italian passport.
Claims from the third wounded journalist were posted suggesting that the attack came from areas held by Ukraine military forces.
— Roza Kazan (@rozakazancctv) May 24, 2014
Al-Jazeera has written a benign summary of events to date related to candidates on the ballot in the modified election process.
An election is scheduled May 25 to elect a new Ukrainian president for a five-year term. Originally scheduled for March 29, 2015, the date was moved following countrywide protests, after the former, pro-Russian president’s decision to reject closer EU ties.
The interim prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, belongs to the same party, Fatherland, as the current acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov — in power since Viktor Yanukovych was ousted on Feb. 22.
Major civil unrest in the pro-Russian areas of the country could make voting difficult, especially with pro-Moscow separatists having de facto control of several southeastern towns. Moscow’s annexation of Crimea — where the election is also happening, in principle — has deepened the worst East-West rift since the Cold War.
Due to security concerns, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry has divided the country into white, pink and red zones — corresponding, respectively, to safe, risky and violent areas of the country. Special rapid-response units will be working in the most conflict-prone regions, and police will be deployed throughout the vote-counting. With some voting commission buildings seized and many government offices occupied by rebels, the process will be challenging.
The Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has deployed 900 observers to monitor the election. A tenth of the officials are from the U.S., and Washington has provided $11.4 million to make the poll “free and fair.”
With Petro Poroshenko leading by a large margin in polls, a total of 21 candidates are officially running. Three dropped out but are still listed on ballots because they withdrew too late. Seven of the candidates have been chosen by political parties, and candidates needed to nominate themselves to the Central Election Commission with a final registration deadline of April 4. If necessary, a run-off between the two leading contenders will be held June 15.
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