New recruits to the pro-Russian activist movement undergo basic training in the district administration building, central Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine May 18, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev
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With a bloody insurgency raging in the east, the ominous presence of Russian troops across the border and an economy in deep recession, next Sunday's election will determine the very survival of Ukraine.The West views the May 25 vote as the only way to end a crisis that began with pro-EU protests in Kiev but spiraled into a wider confrontation after Russia seized Crimea and pro-Moscow rebels took up arms in the east.The United States and its allies – furious over the Crimea annexation and fearful of the estimated 40,000 troops believed to be massed near the Ukraine border – have threatened further sanctions if Russia disrupts the vote.Ukraine's election commission said that a lack of security means it would be almost impossible to hold the vote in Donetsk and Lugansk, where about 2 million of the country's 36 million voters are registered.The separatists proclaimed their own "sovereign" republics in the two industrial hubs after hastily arranged May 11 referendums, dismissed as illegitimate shams by Kiev and the West.
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