May 25, 2014 2:31 pm

Tory MP praises Ukrainians for turning out in big numbers to vote

In this FILE photo, James Bezan, the parliamentary secretary to Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, is seen attending the First Northern Dimension Parliamentary Forum held at the European Parliament in Brussels, Wednesday Feb. 25, 2009.

AP Photo/Thierry Charlier

OTTAWA – A Canadian MP says Sunday’s presidential election in Ukraine went smoothly and largely peacefully.

Conservative James Bezan, a member of Canada’s 350-member election observation team, describes Ukrainians as resilient and brave, adding they turned out in substantial numbers across the country to cast their ballots.

He says the turnout was strong even in areas of eastern Ukraine where heavily armed pro-Russian rebels attempted to stop people from voting.

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READ MORE: Billionaire Petro Poroshenko wins Ukraine election

Those agitators smashed ballot boxes, shut down polling stations and threatened would-be voters.

Bezan says election observers knew there were going to be difficulties in those areas.

So officials made arrangements to allow Ukrainians living in those regions to cast their ballots at more secure polling stations.

He says the mood this weekend in Kharkiv, where he is serving as an election observer, was calm and peaceful, including during a pro-Russian rally which ended without incident. The city is located just 30 kilometres from the Russian border.

READ MORE: Rebels disrupt Ukraine presidential vote

An exit poll shows that billionaire candy-maker Petro Poroshenko is the hands-down winner of the election. The West is hoping the vote might resolve the crisis in the eastern European nation following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March.

Bezan is reiterating the Conservative government’s call for Russia to return Crimea to Ukraine. He adds Ukrainians are “extremely thankful” for Canada’s strong position against Russia.

© The Canadian Press, 2014

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