By Julian Hattem - 05/26/14 01:31 PM EDT
Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday that the election in Ukraine is a signal that voters in the country will not be lured into Russia's grasp.
“The large turnout sends a clear message: the Ukrainian people want to live in a united, democratic and peaceful Ukraine anchored in European institutions,” Kerry said in a statement.
“The successful conduct of these elections reaffirms Ukraine’s commitment to the democratic process,” he added.
On Monday, a day after the Ukrainian presidential elections, the international watchdog Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe characterized the balloting as “largely in line with international commitments” and showed “a respect for fundamental freedoms in the vast majority of the country."
In two eastern areas of the country heavy with pro-Russian separatists, however, the case was slightly different.
“Serious problems” in Donetsk and Luhansk “constituted an attempt to prevent the election, deny citizens the fundamental right to freely participate and elect their chosen representative,” the group said. That included armed threats to poll workers, private residents and the theft of some election materials.
“We commend the courage and determination of those in Donetsk and Luhansk who ensured voting did take place in some precincts,” Kerry said.
Voting also did not occur in Crimea, the peninsula in the Black Sea annexed by Russia in March.
Ukrainian chocolate tycoon Petro Poroshenko claimed a commanding victory in Sunday’s polls, months after pro-Kremlin leader Viktor Yanukovych fled the country amid rising tension.
In remarks after the polls closed, Poroshenko pledged to focus on ending the ongoing violence and tension in his country.