Ottawa, Canada – Michael Druckman, resident country director for IRI in Ukraine, today briefed (PDF) the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on the situation in Ukraine and the need for strong international support as the country prepares for the May 25, 2014 presidential election.
Druckman opened his briefing by stressing the importance of the upcoming presidential election. “It is critical that the international community support the democratic process in Ukraine, especially to ensure a transparent presidential election in May. That election is important for stabilizing the country and empowering the new government in Kyiv to implement long-term reforms.”
Highlighting the series of events that led to the fall of the former president Victor Yanukovych and Russia’s invasion of Crimea, Druckman noted that the recent referendum was held after Russian forces had taken control of the Crimean Parliament and only offered voters two options – to join Russia or to increase autonomy. Druckman also noted that the vote was boycotted by the Crimean Tatars, who are among the most progressive actors on the peninsula and adamantly supported the EuroMaidan movement.
While the “official” results of the referendum are questionable, Druckman raised concerns about Russia’s increasing provocations in Eastern and Southern Ukraine. “In the last few weeks, several Ukrainians have been killed by pro-Russia groups who clashed with pro-Ukraine demonstrators in Donetsk and Kharkiv. In both cases, evidence points to pro-Russia groups attempting to create provocations, disrupt public order and give the impression of an unstable political situation in which ethnic Russians or Russian speakers were under threat.”
Druckman went on to outline the political landscape for the upcoming presidential election, which already has three announced candidates – Vitaliy Klychko, Dmitry Yarosh and Serhiy Tihipko – and will possibly see two more enter the race – Petro Poroshenko and Yulia Tymoshenko.
Stressing the need for international support for Ukraine’s president election, Druckman stated, “If Ukraine, particularly its eastern section, can administer an election that is peaceful, open and transparent on May 25, it has the opportunity to continue as an independent and sovereign country and will be able to continue on a democratic, constitutional and Western path… A transparent election would create space for Ukraine to be able to develop sound economic policies and continue to build its democratic institutions.”
In closing, Druckman stated, “The immediate objective for the international community must be to help Ukraine create a sense of stability and security so that it can conduct the May 25 election in a transparent manner… Ukraine cannot achieve stability if its primary focus is on securing borders from possible military invasion.”