Ukraine counts down to vote in face of rebel threats

Members of the election commission prepare ballots at one of the polling stations in the eastern Ukrainian town of Dobropillya on May 24, 2014, a day before the presidential election in UkraineUkraine was preparing Saturday for a presidential election seen as crucial to its very survival after months of turmoil that has driven the country to the brink of civil war. Sunday’s vote comes with tensions running high after a bloody upsurge in fighting in the east, where pro-Moscow separatists launched an insurgency against Kiev’s rule seven weeks ago. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk issued an appeal for people to turn out to “defend Ukraine” which has been in deep crisis since street protests forced out the Kremlin-backed regime in February. However, in what could be a significant move in Ukraine’s bitter confrontation with its former masters in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday he would respect the outcome of the vote.

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