Mon, Nov 22, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Policeman slain as Ukraine poll goes awry

DPA , KIEV

A policeman was murdered and election law violations were reported early as Ukrainians went to the polls yesterday for a run-off presidential vote.

The killing came at a voting site in the village Molodetska in the central Cherkassy region, said Serhy Kivalov, chairman of Ukraine's Central Election Commission (CEC).

Police were investigating the incident and refraining from comment. Voting in Molodetska was halted for the duration of evidence collection at the crime scene, Kivalov said.

INVESTIGATIONS

Voting was also stopped in the western Volyn region after unknown persons stole a polling site's safe containing voting registers.

Police were investigating that incident as well, Kivalov said.

The Black Sea port city Odessa saw one of its polling sites failing even to open after election officials coming to work discovered voter registers had been tampered with overnight, the Interfax news agency reported.

Forty busses loaded with government workers left the eastern city Donetsk early on Sunday morning with the intention of voting twice, once by absentee ballot in the neighboring Sumy region, and once at home, an opposition official claimed.

The opposition Channel 5 television station showed pictures of students lying down on the pavement in front of similar busloads in the Kiev region, and protestors shouting at the bus passengers "Shame!"

CEC officials said they were aware of the opposition allegations but could not confirm them.

Double-voting by state employees was chronic in Ukraine's first round of Presidential voting on Oct. 31. Both the government and the opposition promised they would reduce such violations in the run-off.

Shortly prior to the polls' opening yesterday morning Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs placed armored vehicles armed with water cannons and barbed wire fencing around the premises of the CEC in Kiev.

Opposition politicians have promised mass demonstrations in the event the CEC allows widespread falsification to affect the vote result.

Turn out was expected to be heavy with at least 27 million registered voters expected to cast ballots at more than 35,000 polling sites. More than 4,000 international observers were on hand to monitor the poll.

DEAD HEAT

The election pits Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich against former National Bank head Viktor Yuschenko.

The two candidates finished in a virtual dead heat in a first round of voting on Oct. 31, with Yuschenko receiving 40 percent of the popular vote, and Yanukovich obtaining 39.2 percent.

Yanukovich supports closer Ukrainian relations with Russia and government support for Ukrainian industrial barons.

Yuschenko supports closer Ukrainian relations with the West and market reforms.

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