Ukrainians share their stories ahead of elections
This weekend, Ukrainians will head to the polls to elect a new president, a pivotal moment in the wake of the ouster of the country’s former Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych.
The election comes at a precarious time for the region. Russia has annexed the Crimean peninsula and appears to be attempting to do the same in other parts of eastern Ukraine, prompting violence between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists, whom the West believes have the support of Russia.
There are tens of thousands of Russian troops along the eastern Ukrainian border; the Kremlin has said several times that Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered their withdrawal, but so far there has been no indication that they are following through with such a move.
On Friday, Putin said his country will “have respect for the choice that the Ukrainian people make” in the election.
“Of course we will cooperate with the newly elected head of state,” Putin told CNBC through an interpreter at a news conference. He had previously said his country would only support the election if Ukraine stopped fighting with the pro-Russian forces in the east.
“I’m not kidding, and I’m not being ironic,” he continued. “What we want for Ukraine is peace and calm. We want this country to recover from crisis.”
Putin has maintained such rhetoric throughout the entire crisis. He has blamed the U.S. for the unrest and dubbed the protesters terrorists.
Photographer Alexander Chekmenev spent months over the winter photographing these same protesters. This spring, he revisited the portraits’ subjects to speak with them again about their hopes for Sunday’s election. These are their stories.