Ukrainians in Russia stay away from polls

MOSCOW, Russia – Several hundred Ukrainians voted in the country's presidential election in Moscow on Sunday, May 25, but the vast majority of their countrymen in the Russian capital stayed away.

Viktor Girzhov, the head of the electoral commission at the Ukrainian embassy, said that 667 people had voted as of 4 pm Moscow time (1200 GMT).

That accounts for less than 2% of the Ukrainians registered as living in the Russian capital, Girzhov told a news conference.

"That doesn't seem like many people, but you have to remember that as a rule few Ukrainians vote in Moscow. In the last legislative elections, there were less than 500 participants," Girzhov said.

A total of 26,997 Ukrainians are registered at the Ukrainian consulate, which is a only a small fraction of the estimated 1.6 million Ukrainians living in Russia. (READ: Putin vows to respect Ukraine vote)

At the doorway to the polling station, Maria was crying silently. A housewife, she had not registered to vote but had hoped to be able to cast her ballot anyway and had even dressed up for the occasion.

"My parents live in eastern Ukraine and they told me this morning that armed men took them to vote. They were counting on me to vote in the name of our family," she said, refusing to give her surname for fear of reprisals.

Another voter, 42-year-old Lila Sotnik, said her Russian friends had discouraged her from voting.

"They said that it was absolutely pointless," said Sotnik, holding her daughter by the hand.

"At school she is treated like she is a fascist. Our life has become a lot more difficult since the Ukraine crisis began," said Sotnik.

"I want a president who will allow the Russians to remember that we are brothers." (READ: Tense Ukraine picks president amid bloodshed)

Six polling stations were opened in Russia for Ukrainians to vote in the polls. – Rappler.com