Questions Rise over Upcoming Ukraine Elections
The legitimacy of a presidential vote in Ukraine is in question just three days before the election. Ukrainians also have new concerns about their safety after pro-Russia insurgents attacked a military checkpoint, killing 13 troops, this week.
The insurgents attacked overnight, making off with the soldiers' weapons and leaving behind more than a dozen bodies and the charred remains of their vehicles.
On Thursday, violence escalated across eastern Ukraine as the Ukrainian army tried to flush out the separatists. Ordinary citizens have been caught in the middle.
In the midst of the violence, Ukraine's leaders are growing increasingly concerned about the prospects for holding fair and safe elections Sunday. In some eastern areas, election officials and voters have already faced intimidation and even death threats from the rebels.
International election observers are calling for peace.
"We ask for stopping the bloodshed. We ask for the cessation of all violence," Ertugrul Apakan, head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's monitoring mission in Ukraine, said.
Russian President Vladmir Putin has ordered his troops to pull back from the border and some have begun. However, Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO's supreme commander in Europe, has told reporters that it's too early to asses the size or importance of the troops that are moving out.
He also noted that a very large and capable Russian force remains close to the border with Ukraine. Ukraine's government says Putin is merely bluffing.
The expected winner in Sunday's election is chocolate manufacturer and billionaire Petro Poroshenko. The latest surveys show him with the majority of votes, compared to rival candidate and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Proshenko is known as a deal-maker and as a cool-headed politician, which could be a winning combination for Ukraine right now.