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Russian TV Announces Right Sector Leader Led Ukraine Polls

Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh
Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh
Russian state TV reported that controversial far-right politician Dmytro Yarosh was leading Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, even though by all indications he wasn't even close.

Displaying figures purportedly taken from Ukraine's official election website, Channel One anchorwoman Irada Zeinalova announced that Right Sector leader Yarosh was comfortably ahead in the race, with more than 37 percent of the vote.

The report was illustrated with a screenshot of a website adorned with the title "Ukraine's Presidential Election" that appeared to be from the official Central Election Commission.

The announcer acknowledged that the figures, coming as the vote was still being counted, were rather "strange."

"It's unclear what it means -- because it is radically different from exit poll data by four pollsters," news anchor Zeinalova said. "According to exit polls, Petro Poroshenko is leading with 55.9 percent."

Perhaps the strangest thing is how such obviously questionable figures could be broadcast on Russian national television.

Ukrainian media reported shortly before the vote that the Central Election Commission website had been targeted by a cyberattack.

Interfax news agency quoted Ukrainian officials as saying on May 26 the information about Yarosh's alleged lead "was prepared in advance" by hackers, and was "stored on Russian Internet resources."

In the end, official preliminary results showed Yarosh far out of the running after receiving slightly above 1 percent of the vote. With votes from more than half of the precincts counted on May 26, Poroshenko was in position to win in the first round, with nearly 54 percent.

Yarosh, 42, is a nationalist leader, known for his anti-Russian remarks. He calls Russia Ukraine's "eternal foe," and has said a war between Russia and Ukraine is "inevitable."

Right Sector's page on the Russian social-networking site VKontakte has called on Doku Umarov, a Chechen militant and Russia's most-wanted terrorist, to intensify "his fight" against Russia.

Moscow accuses Yarosh of publicly calling on anti-Russian forces to orchestrate terror attacks against Russia, and Russian media frequently refers to him as being a fascist.

In March, Russia requested Interpol to arrest Yarosh. A Russian lawmaker has even called on Russian security services to assassinate Yarosh.

The Twitter hashtag #YaroshBusinessCard (#ВизитнаяКарточкаЯроша #ВизиткаЯроша) emerged in April after the Russian news site LifeNews claimed a Yarosh business card was found at the scene of a deadly shoot-out in eastern Ukraine.

-- Farangis Najibullah

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