Ukraine plans to deploy more than 55,000 police and 20,000 volunteers to ensure that Sunday’s presidential ballot goes off smoothly despite the bloody separatist uprising gripping the industrialized east.
The interior ministry’s public order director Andriy Chaliy conceded that the “threat of Russia’s aggression and the actions of separatists in the east” posed a threat to Sunday’s snap vote.
Rebels in the mostly Russian-speaking regions of Lugansk and Donetsk have vowed to disrupt the election and instead seek recognition as independent states that could one day be folded into Russia as the Crimean peninsula had been in March.
Ukraine’s parliament agreed on Tuesday to put a conciliatory measure up for a future vote that would grant more powers to the regions and ensure that the right to speak Russian in public institutions is enshrined in the constitution.
The non-binding memorandum would require Kiev to withdraw its troops from the east should the rebels put down their arms.
Russia on Wednesday called the measure a promising but belated step that fell in line with a peace plan being promoted by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
“This document is the first public, clear even if belated step toward the implementation… of the roadmap developed by the OSCE,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told Moscow’s RIA Novosti news agency.
“But our main hope is that the Kiev authorities do not simply stop at this document.
“Everyone is waiting for decisive actions from them aimed at ending their military operations and searching for ways to achieve real national unity,” Karasin said.