A Nova Scotian monitoring elections in Ukraine says he feels safe, despite four other observers disappearing this week.

Tom Urbaniak, an associate professor of political science at Cape Breton University, is part of a team of international observers in Odessa.

The four observers were in Donetsk when they disappeared earlier this week. Denmark, which has one of its nationals among the four missing civilians, said it believes armed separatists are holding them. The other missing people are from Estonia, Switzerland and Turkey. 

Odessa is about 700 kilometres west of Donetsk and close to Ukraine's border with Moldova. 

'The members of the polling station commissions were determined to do their duty.' - Tom Urbaniak

“We did hear some concern in the region outside the city to which we were posted about security, because people were obviously following the news, especially in the eastern part of Ukraine,” Urbaniak said Tuesday.

“There was no panic. The members of the polling station commissions were determined to do their duty.”

Healthy democracy? 

Urbaniak said Ukraine appears to be making a sincere attempt to build a healthy democracy. The observers are doing more than just watching.

“When a young voter came to the polls for the first time, someone who's 18 or 19 years old, the chairperson of the commission would say, ‘Members of the commission, we have a first-time voter,’ and they would clap or in some cases even give a carnation,” he said.

Turnout in his district was 44 per cent. Candy tycoon Petro Poroshenko appears to have won Ukraine's presidential election in the first round Sunday.

Scores of rebel fighters have been killed this week around the major eastern city of Donetsk, and Ukrainian border guards have reported at least one gun battle as they blocked groups of armed men trying to cross into Ukraine from Russia.


A heavily armed pro-Russian rebel mans a newly erected barricade on the airport road of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Tuesday. (Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)

Ukraine and the West have accused Moscow of instigating the unrest, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied sending any troops to help the insurgents.

The 57-nation Vienna-based OSCE, or Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said the observers — part of a mission sent to try to ease tension and to gather information in Ukraine — had been on a routine patrol east of Donetsk.

The OSCE mission consists of about 282 people, including 198 civilian international monitors from 41 OSCE countries, according to the organization's website.

With files from The Canadian Press and Reuters