Dozens die in Ukraine clashes

Updated 20 August 2014

Dozens die in Ukraine clashes

DONETSK, Ukraine: Fierce fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels left dozens of civilians dead on Wednesday as Ukrainian troops pushed on with a bloody offensive to break the insurgency in the east of the country.
Deadly battles to crush the ailing rebellion appeared to intensify ahead of a fresh round of diplomatic haggling that will see the presidents of Russia and Ukraine sit down next week for their first meeting in months.
Clashes in Donetsk region, one of the two separatist areas, have killed 34 civilians since Tuesday, regional authorities said, as troops reclaimed another town from the rebels.
In the city of Makiyivka, adjoining the main rebel bastion Donetsk, residents were woken up by shelling in the early hours of Wednesday.
The renewed offensive comes as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko gears up for talks with Russia’s Vladimir Putin next week over how to end the conflict, which has killed about 2,200 people over the past four months.
In Geneva the UN said at least 415,800 people have fled their homes due to fighting between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
According to the latest UNHCR estimates, at least 190,000 have been displaced within Ukraine, while 197,400 have fled to Russia. A further 14,600 have travelled to Poland and 13,883 to Belarus.
Poroshenko this week said the army was regrouping to continue its push on the separatist hubs of Donetsk and Lugansk and to fragment the rebel-held territory to stop the flow of weapons from Russia.
“Both (Kiev and Moscow) are trying to improve their starting positions,” said political analyst Oleksiy Golubutskyi. “If Ukraine manages to gain control over Lugansk or even Donetsk before these talks, then the issue of demilitarising them disappears.”
Ukraine’s National Guard said it had wrested back control over on the town of Ilovaysk, a key railway hub some 45 kilometers east of Donetsk.
In besieged Donetsk, authorities said water supplies had been restored after fighting cut power to a filtering station over the weekend.
Kiev claims Moscow is ratcheting up arms flows to help the separatists as Ukrainian forces have pushed deeper into dwindling rebel territory.
Western powers also fear Putin could be preparing to send in the 20,000 troops NATO says he has massed on the border as a last role of the dice.
A Ukrainian military spokesman could not confirm claims from a commander in the field Tuesday that a massive convoy of Russian armor entered the second-largest insurgent city of Lugansk.


Sri Lanka casts its vote under shadow of virus

Updated 06 August 2020

Sri Lanka casts its vote under shadow of virus

  • Security crackdown as more than 7,400 candidates contest twice-delayed election

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka went to the polls on Wednesday to elect 225 members to its 9th Parliament amid tight security and health precautions to limit the coronavirus pandemic.

The polls were twice-delayed after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolved the assembly in March and postponed polls scheduled for April due to the outbreak, before finally deciding on Aug. 5 as the date for general elections.

Mahinda Deshapriya, chairman of the Sri Lanka Elections Commission (EC), said police had been given “shooting orders” in case of security breaches and strict health protocols had been introduced at polling booths.

Deshapriya said that all 12,985 polling booths had been sanitized as a preventive measure.

The elections were completed at an estimated cost of $48.6 million, up from the $37.8 million spent during last year’s presidential polls.

Speaking to Arab News on Wednesday, Samuel Ratnajeevan Hoole, an EC member, said that a 60 percent turnout by noon was a “good sign of voters’ response.”

“Our voters are matured and informed now, and they will choose whom they want irrespective of any racial or religious differences,” he said, adding that there were fewer poll-related complaints this year compared with previous elections.

There were 46 registered political parties and 313 independent groups vying for the 225-seat parliament, with a total of 7,452 candidates in the fray – 3,652 fielded by 46 parties and 3,800 representing 313 independent groups.

According to the EC, nearly 16,263,885 registered voters could make their choice at the elections.

At this election, 196 members are to be elected at the district level under the proportional representation system to the 225-member parliament, while 29 members will be chosen from the National List. Under the 1978 constitution, the members are elected to the 9th Parliament.

Dr. Ruwan Wijemuni, general director of health services in Colombo, credited the voters for “lending their cooperation in full to make it a grand success.” At the same time, police spokesman Jaliya Senaratne said there were no reports of violence from any part of the island.

“There were minor scuffles on the eve of the polls in some parts of the island which were settled then and there,” he added.

Ismathul Rahman, 57, from the coastal town of Negombo, told Arab News that this year people were “keen to elect the right people” for their respective electorate as it was “crucial for the country’s economy.”

“It was a peaceful poll without any remarkable incidents of violence. The EC has managed the show well,” said Khalid Farook, 70, former president of the All-Ceylon Young Men’s Muslim Association, Wednesday.