May.23 - Violent clashes and a separatists' threat to prevent voting in cities under their control set an uncertain stage for this weekend's presidential election - seen as the most crucial for Ukraine's destiny since the fall of Communism. Ciara Sutton reports.
Tensions rise ahead of Sunday's presidential election in Ukraine. Security sources say around a dozen soldiers were killed in fighting at a checkpoint, when gunmen tried to enter Ukraine from Russia. The election is meant to stabilise Ukraine, but separatists have vowed to prevent the poll going ahead in eastern towns where they have control. The U.S and EU say they will impose broad sanctions on Russia, which annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in March, if it tries to derail the election. BGC Market Commentator, Mike Ingram. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BGC MARKET COMMENTATOR, MIKE INGRAM, SAYING: "It's going to be interesting to see Russia's reaction. My own feeling is that they will do just that, they will question the legitimacy of the vote, and they will continue to agitate in the East. Which is not good for anybody. It's not good for Ukraine, it's not good for Europe, it's not good for markets." The pro-Western interim government in Kiev is urging people to take part in the election. Opinion polls suggest Petro Poroshenko, an ally of the former president who later joined protests against him, will win. What happens next is key for Ukraine's fragile democracy. Though some investors, like ETX Capital's Joe Rundle, are pessimistic. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ETX CAPITAL, JOE RUNDLE, SAYING: "The other eastern areas will probably be slowly moved over to Russia and the West is not really going to intervene. It's too expensive to escalate this conflict, so you're going to see a stealth takeover by Russia and nothing really happening about it." Kiev is set to submit evidence of what they call Moscow's attempts "to escalate the conflict" to an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council. Moscow is accusing Kiev of stepping up military operations in eastern Ukraine and failing to help end the crisis. It also says it's asserting its right to intervene on behalf of Russian speakers. A poll watchdog expects a turnout of at least 70 percent of voters on Sunday, but there are concerns that the deteriorating security situation could prevent a second round of voting taking place.