What Ukraine’s election means for addressing conflict in the east – Part 2

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    A short time ago, I spoke to David Herszenhorn, who is covering the election for The New York Times in Kiev.

    David Herszenhorn, thank you very much for talking with us.

    Are these election results considered valid, since parts of the Eastern Ukraine either didn't vote at all or voted in small numbers?

  • DAVID HERSZENHORN, The New York Times:

    Well, international observers give the vote really high marks from a technical perspective. There's no question that the fact that millions of people could not vote in the east and, of course, in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia, is a factor.

    They have said that has to be taken into consideration. But the way this vote for parliament is structured, half of the seats are filled by a national vote for party preference done proportionately. There's no question that's valid. There are some districts that are going to go unfilled, 27 seats perhaps in the 450-seat parliament that will be empty as a result of people not voting.


    Now, David, we just reported, as you know, heavy fighting continues in the east. What bearing, what effect is it thought that these election results are going to have on the unrest that still holds in the east?


    Well, this is the most important question for Ukraine's future right now, how to solve the question of this conflict in the east.

    And what the voters told the government, the message really sent to the world was they want so solve this as quickly as possible, they want the people who are in charge now to continue their efforts to resolve this. That of course requires the cooperation of Russia and President Vladimir Putin. But the message wasn't a militaristic one. They didn't want to go with parties that are more belligerent, that are looking to fight more.

    They're looking to get this solved. And the question is, will the parties now come to the table getting past this election?


    So when we say, when we hear the Russians are saying they will respect the results of the election, is that believed on the streets of Kiev and across Ukraine?


    There's a lot of skepticism.

    Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister, said today that Russia would respect the result. At the same time, he repeated a lot of the Kremlin's strong criticisms of the current Ukrainian authorities. These are the people that the Ukrainian public just voted for, saying that they have to give up fostering divisions within the country, repeating a lot of that same rhetoric that we have heard basically since winter.

    So there is quite a bit of skepticism, a lot of doubts. Certainly, one of the messengers in this vote was an anti-Russian message. There will not be a single communist in the Ukrainian parliament or legislature for the first time in nearly 100 years.


    And what is the status of the fighting? Does one side or another seem to have the upper hand right now?


    Well, there's no question that the Ukrainian government under the current circumstances is not in control of a large part of these embattled eastern regions.

    So, in that sense, the Ukrainian government is at a disadvantage the longer the status quo is in place. Now, we know there was a cease agreement — cease-fire agreement that was signed in Minsk in early September, but there has been no cease-fire. And the challenge is that no one has any incentive to admit that that's the case.

    So the fighting continues on a day-to-day basis. Meanwhile, Russia, Ukraine, United States, the West, everyone is sort of willing and hoping that the truce will somehow hold, but that just isn't the case.


    And, again, all this is despite the truce, despite the cease-fire.


    That's right.

    There has to be a political solution. And likely that will come in some kind of direct negotiation between Ukraine and Russia, some understanding. But we still have a complicated political situation. The rebels are planning their own elections coming up next month. They obviously blocked voting throughout the region there. So the next chapters are not certain yet.


    David Herszenhorn with The New York Times talking to us from Kiev, we thank you.


    Sure thing.

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