DONETSK, September 15 (Hfrance.fr) - Flags Russians and separatists float in the air as rousing music blares and soldiers from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic listen to speeches. Members of the Russian nationalist motorcycle club Night Wolves gather nearby.
Russia will hold parliamentary elections from September 17 to 19 and, for the first time, United Russia, the ruling party that supports President Vladimir Putin, is campaigning in the 'eastern Ukraine in territory controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.
The voices of more than 600,000 people who received Russian passports after a Kremlin policy change in 2019 which Ukraine denounced as a step towards annexation.
"I will vote in blow sSure, and only for United Russia because I think with them we will join the Russian Federation "said Elena, 39, from Khartsysk in the Donetsk region.
"Our children will study according to the Russian curriculum, our salaries will be according to Russian standards, and in fact we will be living in Russia ", she said, s 'speaking at a United Russia conference rally in the city of Donetsk.
In 2014, after street protests toppled the president Ukrainian Viktor Yanukovych, Russia quickly annexed another part of Ukraine, the Crimean Peninsula. Pro-Russian separatists then rose up in eastern Ukraine, in which Kiev and its allies Westerners have called a Moscow-backed land grab.
More than 14,000 people have died in the fighting between separatists and Ukrainian forces, with deadly clashes that continue regularly despite a ceasefire that ended large-scale fighting in 2015.
Two "People Self-proclaimed Republics of Ukraine rule the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, in a part of eastern Ukraine known as Donbass. Moscow has cultivated ink on the separatists nearby but denies orchestrating their rebellions.
In Donetsk, election billboards with images of Russian monuments such as as St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow are dotted. The Russian ruble has supplanted the Ukrainian hryvnia. For its part, Kiev is furious that Russia is holding elections in separatist-controlled territory.
"There is a total 'Russification ' of this region which is advancing at full speed ", told Hfrance.fr in KievOleskiy Danilov, Secretary of the Security and Defense Council of Ukraine.
"The other question is why the world is not reacting not at that? Why should they recognize this State Duma? "he said in an interview in Kiev, referring to which lower house of the Russian parliament will be chosen in the vote.
Russia says it 's nothing unusual for people with dual Russian and Ukrainian nationality to vote in a Russian election.
Residents of Donbass with Russian passports were entitled to vote "wherever they live ", said the Russian news agency TASS, quoting the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Sergey Lavrov as saying August 31.
Kiev and Moscow accuse each other of blocking a permanent peace in Donbass. A massive mobilization of Russian forces nearthe Ukrainian earlier this year raised alarm in the West.
Across Russia itself, United Russia is set to win parliamentary elections , as he never failed to do in Putin's time, despite opinion polls which have sagged in recent times due to stagnant living standards. Opposition groups claim their candidates have been denied access to the ballot, jailed, intimidated or driven into exile, and they are planning fraud. Russia says vote will be fair.
Although Donbass is small compared to the Russian electorate 'ove, overwhelming support ruling party might be enough to get additional seats.
"Obviously the United Russia rating is much higher there and the protest vote y is much lower than the average (in Russia) "said Abbas Gallyamov, a former Kremlin speechwriter turned political analyst.
"This is why they are mobilizing the Donbass.
Yevhen Mahda, a Kiev-based political analyst, said Russia is letting Donbass residents vote not only to strengthen United Russia, but to legitimize separatist administrations.
"Russia, I would say so, with great cynicism, exploits the fact that most of the people who live there have nowhere to going for help, no one to rely on, and often a Russian passport was the only way out of the dire situation people found themselves in the occupied territories. " Written by Matthias Williams Additional reporting by Sergiy Karazy in Kiev and Maria Tsvetkova in Moscow Editing by Andrew Osborn and Peter Graff
Our standards: Thomson Hfrance.fr's principles of trust.