Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center Director John E. Herbst writes for U.S. News & World Report on the prospects of peaceful elections in Ukraine:

As Ukraine approaches the first round of its presidential elections on May 25, the Russian-led insurgency in the country has stalled. The separatists seized control in the small city of Slovyansk and at select locations in Donetsk and Luhansk, but efforts to establish a secure presence in Kharkiv and Odessa failed. The referenda held by separatists in the East have gained little traction, and numerous polls show that a large majority throughout the East want to remain in a unitary Ukraine. In Dnepropetrovsk, oligarch governor Igor Kolomoisky has kept the insurgents at bay and in Mariupol, oligarch Rinat Akhmetov unleashed his steel workers to prevent the separatists from taking control.

Under the threat of additional Western sanctions, the Kremlin is positioning itself to use the elections to step back from its ongoing aggression against Ukraine. After proclaiming loudly for weeks that the elections would have no legitimacy, the Kremlin did not block the dispatch of international observers by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Moscow’s recent statements are meant to provide flexibility. Russian President Vladimir Putin himself noted on one occasion that the elections could be a positive step, while on another questioned the legitimacy of having a vote before “constitutional reform.” And after weeks of pretending to do so, Moscow this week appears to have moved its troops back from the border with Ukraine.

Read the full article here.

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