Voting cancelled in Ukraine's strategic port Mariupol
Ukraine's local elections were cancelled on Sunday in the strategic southeastern port of Mariupol because of what officials described as a lack of sufficient ballots in the disputed industrial city.
"Polling stations did not open in Mariupol because the ballots were not ready in the voting offices," electoral commission Natalia Kashchiy told AFP.
An AFP journalist in central Mariupol confirmed that the doors of voting stations remained shut in city of nearly 500,000 people -- a focal point of pro-Russian rebel attacks for much of the 18-month conflict tearing the ex-Soviet nation apart.
A statement from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's Solidarity party said the polls "were aborted for formal reasons -- due to the improper preparation of election ballots, the absence of control over their printing and number, and reliable storage."
Mariupol provides a vital land bridge between separatist regions in the southeast and Crimea -- the Ukrainian peninsula seized by Russia a month after the February 2014 ouster of Moscow-backed but corruption-tainted president Viktor Yanukovych.
Poroshenko's party said it still hoped to conduct mayoral and regional council elections in the city in the coming weeks.
The Solidarity party and its ruling coalition partners "will initiate changes to the legislation that will allow elections to be held on November 15 -- the date of the (potential) second round of mayoral election, or at some other short-term date."
Poroshenko's fragile ruling coalition faces a major survival test Sunday in tense local elections that exclude the pro-Russian separatist east.
The polls come during a lull in fighting and with worries growing that Ukraine is slipping off the global radar despite just turning into Europe's second-poorest country and still standing as a bulwark against Russia's feared expansion west.
But politicians in Ukraine were most concerned about what happens in Mariupol -- a vital outlet for the east's industrial output that had rebels stationed on its northeastern outskirts of throughout most of the war.
The city came under a January 24 mortar and rocket attack that monitors blamed on the insurgents in which 31 lost their lives and more than 100 were injured.
© 2015 AFP