Russia’s embassy in the Ukrainian capital Kiev has come under attack as Russia plans to hold parliamentary elections in Crimea for the first time.
About 20 unidentified Ukrainians, wearing balaclavas, lobbed scores of fireworks at the embassy building during the early hours of Saturday. They chanted, “There will be no elections,” while holding a banner reading, “Fireworks today, Grad (multiple rocket launchers) tomorrow.”
No arrests or damage have been reported.
On Sunday, polling stations will open across Russia for local parliamentary elections, which are held every five years. Russia previously announced that its citizens in Kiev would also be able to cast their ballots at a polling station at its embassy as well as other diplomatic missions in Ukraine.
However, what most of all has angered the government in Kiev is Moscow’s decision to open polling stations in the Crimean Peninsula for the first time since it rejoined the Russian Federation in 2014. Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly rejected Moscow’s plan, saying they would not recognize such elections in Crimea.
People in Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea voted in a referendum to join the Russian Federation in March 2014. The move angered the West and the Ukrainian government, which branded it as Moscow’s annexation of the territory.
The referendum came almost at the same as the Ukrainian government engaged in a crackdown on the Russian-speaking people in the eastern region of Donbass.
On Friday, Moscow said it was the responsibility of Ukrainian leaders to ensure the security of the elections.
Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said, “They (Ukrainian authorities) are obliged to do so in compliance with the Vienna Convention.”
Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, however, did not welcome Moscow’s call, saying his country "will not guard the electoral process of the Russian Federation."
"The law enforcement system will perform its functions in a normal mode," the Ukrainian premier added.
He also described the firework attack as “hooliganism” and “a small incident that does not require any comment.”
There are 450 seats in the lower house of the Russian parliament, also known as State Duma, to be filled in the elections, with 4,500 candidates competing in 14 parties. About 2,000 of the candidates are running as independents. If a party is to garner a majority, it will need to grab at least 266 seats in the elections.