- The Washington Times - Friday, December 24, 2004

KIEV — Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko warned yesterday that the runoff election tomorrow could still be disrupted, but said he expected to win.

Speaking to a packed press conference as he ended his campaigning, the opposition leader urged voters to remain vigilant.

“I’m not convinced the elections won’t be falsified and transparent, but I can say whatever provocations and falsifications the government tries, these interferences won’t change the outcome of the elections,” he said.

Ukrainians will return to the polls tomorrow to vote in the rerun of a Nov. 21 presidential runoff that was voided by the Supreme Court because of massive fraud. Yesterday was the last day Mr. Yushchenko and his opponent, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, were legally allowed to campaign.

Representatives of the Yushchenko camp said despite new measures implemented since the last vote to eliminate falsification, including drastically curtailing the use of absentee ballots and at-home voting, they had information that names of hundreds of registered voters were appearing at more than one polling place.

In the eastern Ukrainian city of Dniproderzhynsk, the names of 12,000 voters were duplicated in several polling places, said Mykola Katerynchuk, a parliament member who successfully argued before the Supreme Court to have the Nov. 21 vote annulled.

He said the Yushchenko campaign was told about other methods of disruption including the use of young people dressed in colors of the opposition to break into polling places and use force.

The campaign by Yushchenko supporters has been dubbed “the orange revolution” for the color of its flag.

While Mr. Yushchenko’s camp has turned to the Internal Affairs Ministry and general prosecutor’s office to investigate threats, the rival prime minister’s campaign voiced its own fears.

Ukraine is facing a serious threat of disruption of the electoral process with the Central Elections Commission’s “silent disassociation” from the events, said Nestor Shufrich, Mr. Yanukovych’s representative at the commission, according to Interfax-Ukraine.

Mr. Shufrich told the commission yesterday that Mr. Yanukovych’s representatives found that 150 election commissions in the eastern Ukrainian Luhansk region were not working and the work of election commissions in certain districts in Sevastopol in the Crimea and western Ukrainian Ivano-Frankivsk region was being obstructed.

Russia, which openly supported Mr. Yanukovych in the previous rounds of the election, promised to be neutral this time.

Moscow will not use its influence behind the scenes in the former Soviet republics, including Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin told a session of the State Council yesterday.

“We are working and we will work with the authorities in place, taking into account the situation as it develops in these countries,” Agence France-Presse quoted him as saying. “No one can accuse us of doing something behind their back.”

While the candidates squeezed in last-minute campaigning yesterday, more than 12,000 foreign observers fanned out across Ukraine, canceling Christmas plans for a chance to witness history. By some estimates, this is one of the largest observer missions ever to monitor elections in Ukraine.

More than 1,000 observers are individuals of Ukrainian descent. Some have previously visited Ukraine, while others are visiting for the first time.

Many people interviewed said they believed it was their duty to help their ancestral homeland. On average, most spent $1,500 on airfare alone to get to Ukraine.

“This is the most critical moment of our life,” said Juriy Savyckyj, deputy director of the Rockland Psychiatric Center in Greenwich, Conn., in explaining why so many American- and Canadian-Ukrainians wanted to be election observers.

“This is more important than independence. This is really about a people wresting control of their fate. This is the true independence,” he said.

Mr. Savyckyj volunteered to be an observer in Donetsk, the eastern Ukrainian city considered Mr. Yanukovych’s home base, partly because he wanted to understand the people living in that region, he said.

Odarka Figlus, a Denver resident, decided to become an election observer after her brother and sister-in-law, who work in Kiev, wrote an impassioned plea for her to skip the holidays and help monitor elections.

“Everyone is just really proud,” said Miss Figlus. “It’s amazing how this has raised the awareness of the general American public about Ukraine.”

Although the Figlus family spent Christmas Eve together, Miss Figlus was expected to leave for Odessa later in the evening, while her brother, Ihor, departed for Kharkiv, another city in the east.

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