Ukraine seems to be in something of a holding pattern before Sunday’s election though the question of how those polls can be securely conducted in parts of the country where pro-Russian rebels want to secede remains a very live one.
We reported yesterday from Donetsk where officials working to prepare for the May 25 presidential poll described intimidation and threats from separatists which prompted them to shut down their office. The interior minister in Kiev has said it would be impossible to hold “normal elections” in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk which are home to nearly 25 percent of the electorate.
Moscow said yesterday that President Vladimir Putin had ordered Russian forces near Ukraine’s eastern border back to their bases, though NATO and the United States said they saw no sign of a pullback.
Putin is in China, hoping to sign a long-sought deal to supply it with gas. Both sides have yet to agree on a price. Gazprom says the talks are now in their “final stage” though it may have to lower its sights given the prospect of it losing business in Europe has rather strengthened Beijing’s negotiating hand.
If a deal was sealed it could re-embolden Putin in terms of his dealings with the West although revenues from China would take some years to start flowing.