PRI: In Ukraine’s unpredictable election, ultranationalists find a way into the polls

Article published on PRI March 28, 2019 · 12:00 PM EDT –By Fabrice Deprez

About two dozen young men sit in a seminar taking notes while watching a PowerPoint presentation with excerpts from the Ukrainian constitution. 

Maxim Zabara, the instructor, explains the intricacies of Ukraine’s electoral law and offers advice: Report to your polling station early. Bring a pen. Bring water. Have everything you need on you. 

At first glance, this could pass as a regular seminar for any election observer gearing up for Ukraine’s presidential elections on March 31, 2019. But these would-be observers often refuse to talk to journalists. Clad in military fatigues, with black and grey vests, this group sports the name of Ukraine’s far-right Natsionalny Druzhini,or “National Militia.” 

The militia is part of Azov, the country’s most visible ultranationalist group, who also started their own political party — the National Corps. While the National Corps party hasn’t fielded their own candidate in this election, the group will nevertheless show up at the country’s polling stations. The Central Electoral Commission has granted the National Militia the right to act as electoral observers and reported that they will deploy a total of 342 observers across 34 electoral districts.

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