Friday, December 31, 2004

A problem

Yuschenko will have problems when he comes to power. There isn't any doubt about it. And there will be a number of them he will be faced with (which I may get around to posting about.) What follows is from an article by Jan Maksymiuk in an endnote to the December 30th RFE/RL Newsline and, if true, describes one I wasn't aware of. After arguing that Yanukovych may be able to field a strong opposition, the author notes:

The Kyiv-based Razumkov Center conducted two interesting polls recently, one from 6-9 December and the other from 14-19 December, on voter preference on a hypothetical parliamentary ballot.The first poll offered respondents a list of 20 parties, while the other presented the same list of parties with the names of their leaders attached. The first poll found that just four parties -- Our Ukraine (with 28.8 percent backing), Yanukovych's Party of Regions (14.5 percent), Petro Symonenko's Communist Party (6 percent), and Oleksandr Moroz's Socialist Party (4.5 percent) -- could count on overcoming the 3-percent barrier in the current environment.But the second poll -- with a list of parties and their political leaders -- painted a somewhat different picture. It suggested that six parties would have deputies in the Verkhovna Rada:Party of Regions-Viktor Yanukovych (20.5 percent backing); Our Ukraine-Viktor Pynzenyk (17.1 percent); Socialist Party-Oleksandr Moroz (8 percent); Fatherland Party-Yuliya Tymoshenko (6.7 percent); Communist Party-Petro Symonenko (6.2 percent); and the Popular Agrarian Party-Volodymyr Lytvyn (3.5 percent).

First, the Razumkov Center's December polls highlighted the crucial role of leaders in Ukrainian politics: Party stripes do notappear to be of paramount importance to Ukrainian voters. Second, the polls disclosed a startling and little-known reality: that the Our Ukraine "brand" belongs legally not to Yushchenko but to his political ally, Viktor Pynzenyk. Pynzenyk appears to have managed to re-register his former group -- the Reforms and Order Party -- with the Justice Ministry under the name of Our Ukraine while everyone else from Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc was busy preparing and implementing the "Orange Revolution."The "appropriation" by Pynzenyk of the Our Ukraine name could became (sic) an additional source of political grief for Yushchenko in 2005, after he forms a new government and starts to think about securing political support for himself in the 2006 legislative elections. It is highly unlikely that other parties from the Yushchenko camp would be delighted either to allow Pynzenyk to participate in the election under the victorious bloc so closely associated with the "Orange Revolution" or to agree to field their candidates on Pynzenyk's party ticket. Besides, as the polls suggested, support for Our Ukraine might be significantly lower once voters realize the astounding fact that the Our Ukraine party is not run by Yushchenko.

Here it is often necessary to watch your friends as closely as you watch your enemies.

The tsunami

I haven't posted anything on the tsunami in the Indian Ocean because there hasn't been much that could be said. A horrible loss of life which some are suggesting might reach 400,000.

Parents waiting for word from their children and children trying to find their parents. Not one instance of it or a couple or even in the thousands, but in the tens of thousands. There is just nothing that can be said about it.

One thing that is really gratifying is to see the response of my countrymen, the people of the US. Notwithstanding Egeland's idiotic statement, the American people have responded to this catastrophe by giving, much as they always do. And the government has responded by putting military assets in the area to help out along with monetary aid. (For an onsite view of this, see this post and this.) This is all gratifying and reminds me of the response by some readers of this blog to the Orange Revolution. "Scott, you will of course tell us if there is any money needed and where we can send it?" Very gratifying to hear and to see.

And others from around the world are doing the same thing not just the US.

It was apparently so powerful that the wave was detected, in a severely weakened form, on the Pacific coast of Russia.

But there is nothing much that can be said about it but to hope the totals don't go up more.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Needs gloves to protect his knuckles

This guy is really some piece of work. The Kyiv Post quotes him in this article--Kyiv Post. Cabinet building blocked etc-- as saying

"'It is a matter of my principles not to submit a resignation,' Yanukovych said. 'I know why they insist on that ... they are shivering with fear.'" (emphasis mine)

Shivering with fear, huh? I'm surprised he didn't say something about smelling it.

This is a guy who used the slogan "Power and Strength" for the original election and meant it. This is the guy who can't keep tough-guy prison slang out of his speech when he talks because it makes his point with more ease. This is the guy who most likely hit the transportation minister in some fit of rage and who was reported to have sent his wife to the dentist with some teeth knocked out. This is the guy who had his under-thugs beat men--and old women too-- to keep them from voting. This is the guy who wanted to rid the square of the protestors but had no assets locally to do it. And who knows the extent of the things he has done in the dark. We may soon find out about them. I hope we do. People will then see him stand revealed in the light of day for what he is.

The fact is that Yanukovych is a thug, a brutal, Neanderthal kind of a creature who dominates by force or by fear. He has no other way. And I think he takes delight in it. The people of the Ukraine ought to be very weary of him and of those like him. They have after all been subjected to his type not only during the Soviet era but for long centuries before that under the tzars. Some are tired of him, the point of the protests. But a lot in the east are not and see his kind as their hope. In fact, for some of these people, he is their ideal kind of leader and the brutality an asset, if you can believe it.

Makes me want to puke.

UPDATE: I just found the whole quote and it's worse:

Let them continue their lawlessness, but, as a matter of principle, I will not submit a resignation," Yanukovych told journalists on 29 December. "I know why they insist on my resignation," he added. "It is because they are shivering with fear now, just as they did in the beginning. And they have every reason to think so. We will have our say in the future -- in the near future."

The smell of fear about them all and the threats that he will bide his time until he can make his point in the most effective way, using the methods he has always used. All this directed at the Ukranian people. The problem with it is that his little world has changed around him. What might have worked a couple of months back will not work now. But the thug continues to speak and the stuff continues to spill out.

Such a fall from power and the world changing right out from under him may have once seemed to make him someone to pity. But now he's to be despised.

Prevent looting

One of the issues raised as to why Yanukovych should be prevented from going back to his office is that he and his cronies might loot the government some more. It was alleged in a report a couple of days back that he and some others had succeeded in having some railroad cars transferred over to them and in getting a deal for carriage that gave them something like a 30% discount. They would of course transport goods or passengers for the standard fee and pocket the rest. This is alleged to have happened under Kirpa's watch and months ago, but there still might be some other things he and his could get their hands on.

To keep him from his office might be to keep him from getting more swag.

The Kremlin siloviki

I have been following events in Russia for some years and there are a number of positions about what is going on in the Kremlin. One of them is that there are struggles for power going on between what are considered to be rival clans. The argument is that Putin does not dominate any one but serves as a broker of sorts between them all. The result is that he is not necessarily in complete control of things in government but has to appease one or the other of the clans to get things done.

These clans don't necessarily represent economic interests like they do in the Ukraine though they may be seeking economic power for the government and for themselves. They are often composed of people who see eye to eye on certain things rather than being tied together by financial interests as the clans are here in the Ukraine. (The neocons in the Bush government would be considered a clan from this perspective.)

One of these clans is composed of the siloviki, members of the Putin's government that have come from the security services like the KGB. Many of them followed Putin there when he took power after being chosen by Yeltsin.

This article explains the problem: Siloviki Loom Large at Summit.

What should worry the Bush administration's Russia watchers the most, however, is that Putin can't take all the blame for Moscow's actions. Another set of players is asserting itself within the Kremlin, a group with the ability to interfere in Russian business and to undermine their president's credibility. The extent of this group's growing power and influence helps explain the gap between Putin's words and Kremlin deeds.

Putin promised that Yukos would not be bankrupted, that the state would not seek control of Yugansk, and that the eventual auction of Yugansk would be transparent. All three assurances proved false. Putin had little incentive to lie about these issues, especially so late in the game, and he had little reason to change his mind in the interim. In addition, Putin's post-auction news conferences were surprisingly open and wide-ranging for a president who rarely feels the need to justify his actions.
Putin frequently seemed defensive, like a leader who has lost some of the domestic political initiative and who is reacting to important events rather than shaping them.

A new group of vested economic interests has risen within the Kremlin from among the "security vertical," those who came to the administration via the security services. These siloviki have their own ideas on how to amass economic power -- even if it contradicts official Kremlin policy. The siloviki aren't new to the administration; they've been with Putin throughout his presidency. But their freedom to maneuver -- even when their actions directly contradict their president's words -- appears to be growing.
One of the main problems is that these siloviki and the military tend to see rivalry with the US as the main strategic problem. In this they are no different than their predecessors who stood on top of Lenin's tomb to watch their military, a military set up to counter the US "threat," parade by. It is these same people who detected the handiwork of the US behind the Orange Revolution. And their response to it has been nothing short of paranoid. Maybe some of it has to do what they consider to be an entitlement they have become used to being frustrated.

Whatever it is, this presents real problems for the US and for the West.

Harsh opposition

YANUKOVYCH VOWS TO SWITCH TO 'HARSH OPPOSITION.' defeated presidential candidate Yanukovych said in an interview published in"Izvestiya" of 28 December that he is not going to cooperate with Yushchenko "under any circumstances." He stressed that he will go into opposition if Yushchenko is eventually declared president. "We will go to harsh opposition," Yanukovych said. "We will get a majority in parliament and will in this way pressure Yushchenko....The objective of our harsh opposition will be to win the 2006 parliamentary election. We need to win a majority in the Verkhovna Rada and form a coalition government
of our own."

Maybe it's just the translation and the meaning is really "strong opposition," but I find there to be some truth in it anyway. The only thing different is that he is going from incumbent party to the opposition. The "harsh" remains the same.

From RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 8, No. 241, Part II, 28 December 2004.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

More Kirpa

It was reported last night that the transportation minister found dead the day before yesterday at his dacha outside of Kiev suffered death from one gunshot wound to the temple. But that does not end the mystery. Neighbors reported hearing multiple gunshots coming from Kirpa's house. So with this new information, what is the position of the authorities? Suicide. I guess they figure Kirpa was a bad shot.

To be fair, they're probably going with the explanation they consider to be more likely and it would be the most likely in countries like the US. But here the unlikely happens enough to not be so unlikely anymore.

But it might be more like something of a reflex. Preserving your job has meant in the past a certain discretion when it comes to what might be political assassinations. A finding of suicide is always safe. That kind of thing might have become institutionalized.

Anyway, the multiple gunshots explains why there were original reports of multiple gunshot wounds originally. Somebody got confused.

There was a program last night on TV that went into this case. They argued there were a number of reasons why someone might want to deal with Kirpa other than political reasons. It looks like he was involved in the renovation of the Vauxhall, the train station in downtown Kiev, for instance. There were allegations of shoddy work which suggests traditional graft. Give the bid to an associated company--your guy--use substandard materials and labor and pocket the difference. Mob stuff.

But it is also well known that he was a part of Kuchma's inner circle and that means he knew things. One other guy who had been a part of that same inner circle, Yuri Lyakh, was found dead in his office a couple of weeks ago. It seems he stabbed himself in the neck multiple times with a letter opener. (He must have missed too.) Of course this means he committed suicide.

It all looks suspicious though. It could be a partnership on some sort of deal that the other party was looking to dissolve or it could be political. With the way threats have been dealt with here it is hard to favor one over the other as being the more likely. Both are possibilities. And the argument that it would be too obvious if it were political is answered pretty effectively by the Yuschenko poisoning.

Let's see if they solve this thing. The problem is that if they rule it a suicide, even if it were a suicide in fact, there will be a lot of people who won't believe it. And there are a lot of reasons why they would be justified in believing that.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Voting from Home

According to this post from Maidan , 537,481 people voted from home in the last election. Significantly, most were from Donetsk and Luhansk, Yanukovych strongholds.

Maidan makes the point that this flies in the face of Yanukovych's arguments that the election was void because these people could not vote. They did vote it turns out. But the other point is that this is a possible area of more voter fraud once again. The numbers are not all that large this time, but the discrepancy between the east and the west suggests something was going on.

This election though was much better than either of the previous two even with the problems. And Yuschenko won in spite of any of it. Works for me.

More UN stupidity

Some comments from the UN on the relief aid to be sent by the US to Asia in the aftermath of the devastation of the past few days-- U.N. official slams U.S. as 'stingy' over aid / The Washington Times INSIDER:

"The United States, at the president's direction, will be a leading partner in one of the most significant relief, rescue and recovery challenges that the world has ever known," said White House deputy press secretary Trent Duffy.

But U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland suggested that the United States and other Western nations were being "stingy" with relief funds, saying there would be more available if taxes were raised.

If taxes were raised? Umm, isn't that for the US to decide with its own voters and though its own institutions? It is but it sounds like they would like it otherwise.

Most people assume the UN is some sort of supra-national legislative body, a kind of Congress for the world. But there is nothing democratic about the UN and its chief purpose is to "replace national interest as the dominant motor" of international action which in reality serves to undermine sovereignty. This quotation comes from a report analyzing the direction UK policymakers are taking with the military. It cites the basic problems of the UN (and other international organizations, for that matter):

International law will not prove a salvation from conflict, nor will the two organisations dedicated to its spread-- the UN and the EU. Both suffer dual problems: a legitimacy problem, given that legitimacy in the West relates to democratic accountability and neither organisation is democratically accountable; and an enforcement problem, given that both seek to minimise the power of the individual state but both rely on individual states...

The UN cannot escape the problem that while it seeks to replace national interest as
the dominant motor, it depends on national forces... (p.7)

There is a lot more to be said on this and on international law in general but we won't address it now. Let's just say that it is the supposed legitimacy of the UN that people want to count on to solve problems such as Iraq. This argues that it has none in reality.

And that is not to mention the Oil for Food scandal and the sex scandals involving UN peacekeepers in the Congo, (here) and in Sierra Leone, (here), for starters. Sounds like it has no moral legitimacy now either.

We really all should breathe a sigh of relief that the UN was not involved in the Ukrainian election. If it had been, Kuchma would still be in power, but the coffers of the UN would be full. The people though would be having to keep better track of their young daughters.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Transportation minister found dead

Ukraine Pravda is reporting that the transportation minister, Kirpa, who so displeased Yanukovych (reported here) was found dead in his dacha of apparent gunshot wounds. A pistol was found nearby.

The details are not all that clear at this time but it does look awfully suspicious. Maybe they will find the entry wounds in the back and a suicide note.

Yanukovych can't pay?

I heard from a woman yesterday that her husband went without work for a couple of months because Yanukovych's campaign did not pay the factory he worked at for some mini-buses they built for him for his campaign. There were fifty in all and they haven't been paid.

And Veronica Khokhl reports this:

I passed Yanukovych headquarters maybe half an hour before I got to Maidan, and there was a Christmas tree there, too, and a stage with a screen, big for that area but small compared to the one at Maidan, but there were very few people there and it didn't feel like a celebration at all. The guy who was giving me a ride said his company remodelled the movie theater building for Yanukovych people - and they still owed them some money, even though they promised to pay "mountains of gold." He had a ribbon on his car's outside antenna and a Yushchenko sticker inside, and he was sure of Yushchenko's victory.

To be a solid opposition, they are going to need money which Yanukovych seems to be having trouble coming up with. Are the oligarchs who supported him really going to pony up to support him as the head of the opposition, an opposition out of power and not capable of doing anything more than influence policy or legislation as it passes through the Rada? I have my doubts. Yanukovych looks discredited to me on all sides. Maybe he has some support somewhere who knows. But that support has contracted significantly at the very least. And though he may represent a significant minority of the people of Ukraine, his power has never come from the people. It has come from his clan. And I can't imagine that his clan is all that happy with him right now.

Maybe they will look to Moscow for funding? What would Putin get for the investment? No one in the halls of power in Kiev. Putin bet the farm on Yanukovych and lost big. And his relationship to Yanukovych has become the object of jokes both here and in Russia. So public support for Yanukovych is a liability. Maybe the FSB will fund him on the sly but it would be hard to know what they would get for that support.

Anyway, I guess we'll see.

Results with most precincts reporting in

As of right now,

The central Election Commission has processed 97.91% of the protocols. According to the, 52.4% (14843858 votes) supported Viktor Yushchenko and 43.81% (12411540 votes) supported Viktor Yanukovych.

It is not the landslide that was thought this morning but it is still a pretty decent pummeling of Yanukovych.

Yanukovych's campaing manager, Tara Chornovil, is saying that they have no demonstrations planned. I think they don't have enough money in the budget anymore for their version of a spontaneous uprising.

Last night's propaganda

We watched the Donetsk channel news last night. They reported massive fraud in Western Ukraine coupled with the poisoning of Yanukovych supporters to prevent them from voting. (They were offered tea by someone somewhere and that is alleged to have put them in the hospital. That would be a lot more service than anybody I know got when they went to vote.) None of this has been reported anywhere else and it won't be because it didn't happen. But that lack of reporting of this information, by operation of the Alice in Wonderland kind of logic which rules conspiracy theories, will serve to convince some people that it is true. ("You would hardly expect them to admit it would you?")

The interesting thing though was the guy reporting the poisonings. His report came in by phone and he had all the lurid details. But his voice didn't sound convincing to me. It had the sound of doing something perfunctory. There was hardly any emotion at all in it and he was reporting the poisoning of people in a political election. The information conveyed sounded bad but the voice of the reporter didn't convince me that it was. And he might have been reading it. At least at points he sounded as if he were. That means he had to put it together before phoning it in if so.

The use of poison is not irony either. It is meant to tie in with the Yuschenko poisoning, which he, well, obviously did himself. This is also Alice in Wonderland which would confirm that Yuschenko poisoned himself--he has poison to give to others which means he had some he could use himself and of course he most benefits from the poisoning -- and the Yanukovych supporter's poisoning--they had to have been poisoned by the poison Yuschenko had because he benefits from their not voting.

That has been the problem with the media in the east for some time. And it was a problem all over Ukraine until the revolt of the press in Kiev during the revolution. What is news is what is in the collective head of powerful interests, that is, what they want the public to know and to believe. And they can bring that about because they have a near monopoly on the sources of information. The real disheartening thing however is that some want to believe it.

The results

Others have posted on the results (here for instance) and it looks like a landslide for Yuschenko. That is as it should be.

And there has been no violence in Kiev or other places except for an incident in Zaporozhiya last night. That is a very good thing of course.

When everything is over and things settle down here, there will be a feeling that this was all inevitable, the destined course of history arriving at Fuykuyama's default setting for modern societies. (It's a historical dialectic established on a conservative foundation.) But it was not inevitable, none of it. What happened depended on a lot of people standing up when they needed to. The point is that it was the work of individual people that was the underlying reality of this revolution and its result not some impersonal forces of nature or society.

It was, for instance, people coming together down on the square and protesting in the first place, people who don't have a history of doing this sort of thing. It was the people who set up tents near the centers of power here and who prevented the powerful--the systems manipulators who had gone from one unobstructed victory to another over the course of the past decade or more-- from getting access to their sources of power. And this in a country where to get something from government has meant a soft knock on the closed door of a government official and a meek "May I?," before being allowed to enter into the presence. It was the self control of the people on the square and near the military and police that didn't set what was a powder keg alight. It was their essential goodness that came out in dealing with the opposition that won numbers over and prevented any serious provocations.

And among the institutions of government, it was the deputies in the Rada originally condemning the fraudulent election. Though they backpedaled quite a bit days later--it is a hard thing after all to cut oneself off from the source of supply-- this was a victory and set the stage for what later good came from there.

It was the Supreme Court in an impressive display of the power of a judiciary, while laboring under intense pressure, even under threats, that stood up and declared the election fraudulent and created certainty where there had been nothing but uncertainty.

It was people like Yuschenko reaching out to the opposition and making pleas for supplies from the people of Kiev, supplies which came from even the humblest of citizens. That allowed them to stay downtown. Or Tymoshenko staying on board when she had reason to bolt which prevented a split that could have been exploited. Or Litvyn being an honest broker and maintaining the integrity of the Rada. Or Omelchenko, the mayor of Kiev, who backed the opposition and smoothed the way downtown for the people to gather and obstruct. And he did this even though he had been an opponent of Yuschenko in the first election. Even Moroz did what was needed to be done at certain points. And there were others.

It was these people who brought about this election and its result. And the outcome was not certain nor was it preordained when they decided to act. This is their victory.

No congratulations for Yanukovych from Putin shows that Yushchenko has won

There is humor among Russians it should be remembered and good humor at that. From Obozrevatel:

"The leader of the Russian right parties, Boris Nemtsov, stated in a live interview with 1+1 TV in Ukraine that he considers it a good sign that RF president Putin did not congratulate Yanukovych. It may mean only one thing - that Yushchenko has won. His colleague in Russian politics, Duma deputy and the Rodyna faction, Dmitri Rogozin, stated that he is willing to look down his nose at the Russian spin doctors who supported Yanukovych. 'If Zhirinovksiy supports Yanukovych, I do sympathize with Yanukovych.'"

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Court decision would void both election law amendments and constitutional reform

It looks like the question before the Constitutional court was not the original Supreme Court ruling as I originally reported but was the constitutionality of the laws and amendments agreed to by Kuchma and voted on by the Rada. Court decision would void both election law amendments and constitutional reform:

If the Constitutional Court decides that there are discrepancies in the amendments to electoral law, the revote on the Dec 26 2004 will be impossible or will lead to illegal voting if it will be even carried out," advocate Oleksiy Reznikov says. Reznikov represented Yushchenko's interests in the Supreme Court of Ukraine during Mikola Katerinchuk's complaint to recognize the Central Election Commission's decision recognizing Viktor Yanukovych the winner of the presidential campaign as illegal.

First of all the amendment, unlike the Law "About elections of the President of Ukraine" establishes a fair way of forming territorial and district election commissions," Reznikov explains. "These territorial and district election commissions are already created and they will be illegal because they are created on the 50/50 basis according to the amendment. "Besides this, Reznikov says there are more technical barriers for carrying out the revote on the Dec 26. For example, the number of absentee ballots is now 0.5% from the total of voters, and the same time according to the Law "About elections of the President of Ukraine" this number is 4%. The extra absentee ballots will not be printed.

As LIGABusinessInform reports in the advocate's press-service, Reznikov thinks that the Constitutional Court decision on the special Law would make the other laws which were adopted together with it illegal as well and first of all will make illegal the Law of Ukraine "About carrying in changes into the Constitution of Ukraine."

It was reported this morning that the Constitutional Court declared the limitation in home voting to be unconstitutional. (That is where a significant number of abuses happened.) If the voting goes ahead as it is without the extensive home voting the court seems to favor, that might allow the argument that the election was illegal.

This court might be trying to stand up for the Constitution and they might really be basing their decision on the rule of law. But I just can't get this picture out of my head of Yanukovych finally finding the last bastion of his cronies in the government in the one place that would do him some good. It may be a picture that is unfair but I know hundreds of thousands of others who will have that same picture in their heads. And they are much more emotionally tied to the outcome of this than I am.

Constitutions and the institutions they create have to survive to be the basis for any government or rule of law. If they do not survive here, the court can take solace in the fact that they stood on principle while people pick through the rubble looking for their friends and family. What an extremely foolish bunch of people. They just might have sewn some uncertainty back into the whole situation and, with things as they stand, that is not a good thing.

UPDATE: More on the decision today here.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas

I wanted to wish a Merry Christmas to one and to all and to wish also that we all might have a more full measure of the peace and joy that this season represents.

Putin on the revolution

Putin really needs to get out of the Kremlin more often. It looks like what amounts to their lockerroom banter is slipping out into his public statements. From the BBC, Polish head rejects Putin attack (via Instapundit):

"Mr Putin criticised the 'revolutions' that have taken place in Georgia and Ukraine - dubbed the 'rose revolution' and the 'orange revolution' respectively - saying that 'they will think of something like blue' next time.

Rose and blue are colours associated in Russia with homosexuality. "

If those around you agree completely with your worldview, everywhere you turn there is complete assent and no disagreement on it whatsoever, it can seem as if the whole world agrees with it too. (The Hollywood problem.) The problem with the Kremlin today is that it is insular in its views and there is complete agreement on them. And that has shown itself most clearly in Putin's reaction to Ukraine.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

An appeal

We hear that Yanukovych supporters are taking the Supreme Court ruling to the Constitutional Court to have it declared whatever they would declare it. (It's not an appeal so they wouldn't reverse it. I guess they would void it in some way or issue an order against its enforcement.)

Yanukovych's clan is exhausting their remedies with those institutions they used to control. We'll see what happens here if this is accurate. If the Constitutional Court does not have jurisdiction, they would do well to dismiss it. If they don't, they had better find a way to avoid the issue. There is certainty now that there wasn't before the Supreme Court ruled and there has been no violence. If it were overturned in some way, that would lead to a whole lot of uncertainty and who knows what else which could not benefit anyone not even the Constitutional Court. (They have to go home and live in the community. The ivory tower shuts up for the night.) That has to weigh on them if they know what is good for them. (Seeing the mighty fallen has to be a lesson for them too.) And I suspect they detect the sea change even if they have been susceptible to "inducements" before. So I think they will find a way to duck it or agree with it.

If they don't what would happen? If they constitutionally overturned the Supreme Court's ruling what would happen then? Would Kuchma cancel the election? He might but he must see something in it that works to his interest or he wouldn't have caved in in the first place. (I think there must have been a deal to spare him which would not sit well with certain members of the Yuschenko camp. I don't think that is a bad thing either because Yuschenko et al do not have time nor do they have an unlimited amount of political capital to spend on a series of trials of high officials. They have other things they have to do and they have to do them fast.)

But if he did cancel the election, are people going to put up with that? And would they think they could count on another peaceful demonstration like before? Aren't people going to be fed up with it and look for ways to take more direct action? Could they contain what happened then if they didn't think they could contain it in the first place (which is what I think happened)? This is not to say that he won't do it, but not doing it would be more consistent with what he has ended up having done than doing it would be. And he has less power to make things happen now than he did then.

I get a sense that people are weary of maneuvering right now. And a people who are weary of it may just be tired enough to sweep away everything, or at least to try. That would be a real revolution and it could suck everyone in.

The stupidest question of the day, possibly year

On the New Channel last night in an interview with Yuschenko, the host of the program said this (paraphrase):

"Host: You were late for our interview here, does that mean that you will be late for reform?"

Yuschenko: (Me: "He has to be thinking that is the stupidest question ever.") "We were in some heavy traffic coming here. It was something that was out of my hands."

The New Channel was a supporter of Yanukovych before the revolution. Old habits die hard it seems.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

An analysis of the spetsnaz question

This is an interesting analysis from the Action Ukraine Report (#269) by a writer living in Kiev:

Despite Viktor Yushchenko's announcement from the stage on Maidan Nezelezhnosti that Russian troops had indeed been in Kyiv, confusion remains over the size and even the very existence of RF Spetsnaz in the area.

No less an authority than Janes Intelligence Digest confirmed Yushchenko's words, but sources in Kyiv's diplomatic community and others with ties to Ukrainian government ministries still insist that RF troops never entered the country. However, the case can be put forward that not only were RF Spetsnaz here, they played a role in the success of the Orange Revolution.

Rumors of the Special Forces entry into Ukraine came as early as Tuesday, November 23. Yuliya Timoshenko reported that she met troops who she declared as being Russian while she was at the Presidential Administration buildings. The troops insisted that they were from Crimea. However, news sources at the time stated independently that RF Special Forces had been trucked in overnight.

Reports within Kyiv grew even more confusing as the week passed. Oleksandr Zinchenko, working from information that 17 flights with soldiers from Russia had landed at Boryspil' Airport, announced on November 24that almost 1,000 of the RF's Vityaz Special Forces were in Kyiv, with half of them based in the presidential administration buildings already. Rumors of 'tall, physically fit men asking for directions to well-known places' abounded.

What is certain is that two Antonov An-26 aircraft and an Ilyushin Il-76landed in Kyiv area airports on November 23 and 24th. The Antonovs, one of which UNIAN reports as having the tail code RA-26410, carried30 troops each. These aircraft were to be serviced by a detachment atBoryspil's military airport. The second in command at the airport, Lt.Colonel Lyashenko, refused to deal with the Russian craft and resignedinstead. Though Security Bureau of Ukraine (SBU) chief Ihor Smeshko denied the landing, he did confirm that Lyashenko had indeed resigned on the 24th.

The Il-76, which can carry 140 troops, is said to have landed at Hostomel airport in Irpin and the troops were stationed at Vasylkyiv. However, the Ilyushin is said to have been a Ukrainian aircraft and the troops disembarked wearing Ukrainian uniforms. Later reports claimed that thetroops were 'back in Russian uniform' but left only an hour before investigators arrived.

At this point only 60 Vityaz can be considered as having been in Ukraine, despite Jane's claim of 'up to 500'. It is known now that Crimean militsia in the Kyiv region were actually issued ammunition on November 28, so the troops that Tymoshenko met could have been Ukrainians. The Il-76 may have had Ukrainian troops as well. But later reports claiming that the two Antonovs came from Russia with money for Yanukovych's counter-protestors flies in the face of Lyashenko's resignation.

Russian Federation President Wolodymyr Putin may have well acted on a request (however illegal) from President Leonid Kuchma for troops to act as a praetorian guard. That another part of the detachment was to retrieve records, as Jane's reported, also makes sense. Since Ukrainian military units were starting to pledge themselves to the Ukrainian people, Kuchma could have hardly had much trust in his own soldiers. And that is why the presence of foreign troops on Ukrainian soil, however unwelcome, may have staved off bloodshed. With Kuchma's personal safety ensured by the Russians, he could resist calls for the use of force to restore the administration's idea of order.

In his interview with the Financial Times on December 14, then-deputy head of the Presidential Administration Vasyl Basiv stated that President Kuchma was consistently against the use of force." Presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych and Presidential Administration head Viktor Medvedchuk are said to have pressured Kuchma into doing so. It is still unclear who ordered the militsia troop movement on November 28 which sources in Kyiv claim was stopped by the SBU and backed up hours later by American diplomatic efforts. However, Obozrevatel reports that an official review of the incident was started on December 7.

There is one other factor, largely undocumented, which should be brought to light. Though consideration of Russian reactions is rarely far from mind in Kyiv, the Orange Revolution got underway to resolve internal problems, with Russian interference as a factor rather than the whole problem. However, bythe 24th the
mood in Kyiv had sharpened as concerns about the foreign incursion gathered
steam. As one normally peaceful scholar put it, "I'll talk to the Ukrainian militsia for hours until they give up, but don't getb etween my hand and a Vityaz throat."

Considering the masterful crowd control the revolution's organizers showed, playing down the Russian military intrusion may have been seen as keeping order, and not for fear of the people losing heart. By facing the unthinkable - that yet again, Russian troops had been brought into Ukraineto impose order - the protesters on Maidan steeled themselves to press on regardless and determine their own fate.


Fron the Financial Times:

Speaking in a televised debate ahead of fresh presidential elections on Sunday, he told Viktor Yushchenko, the opposition leader: "I'm against you [Mr Yushchenko and Mr Kuchma] uniting and teaching Ukrainians how tolive with help from za bugra, he said using a coarse expression for"abroad"....

The anger expressed by Mr Yanukovich in last night's debate echoed the heightened emotion of campaigning in the southern and eastern regions, which supported him last time but now appear more divided.

In Sevastopol, the Crimean city that hosts the main base of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, a St Nicholas day religious procession turned violent on Sunday. A small group of Mr Yanukovich's supporters who had marched in the procession split off and began waving their blue-and-white Yanukovich banners in front of passing cars. Eyewitnesses said that when a few cars decorated in the orange colour of Mr Yushchenko's campaign approached, they were attacked by Yanukovich supporters.

"Unfortunately, what happened here on Sunday was part of a clear trend,"said Timofey Nikityuk, head of the local branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, a domestic election observer group. "Campaigning [for the repeat election] has been much more aggressive than it was before previous rounds.

"The residents of Sevastopol were among the most disappointed when Mr Yanukovich's win was annulled. According to the official results, Mr. Yanukovich won more than 88 per cent of the city's votes, and Mr Yushchenko's campaign team acknowledges that it will lose in the city even if the election is fair.

Likewise, in Mr Yanukovich's native Donbas region, Mr Yushchenko's supporters have been attacked by groups of young men and some have been seriously injured. Journalists covering Yushchenko campaign events have been beaten and their cameras damaged.

In other southern and eastern regions, the campaign has been peaceful but filled with tension. In the Black Sea town of Odessa on Saturday, Mr Yanukovich and a member of Mr Yushchenko's political team, OlexaderMoroz, held rival campaign rallies in a central square in close succession.

A couple of hundred supporters of Mr Yanukovich, who appeared first, stayed
on to shout taunts and wave blue-and-white banners at Mr Moroz and the
orange-bedecked crowd. Lines of police separated the two groups but many
Yushchenko and Yanukovich supporters peeled off to argue with each other.

"Go! Get out of here! You have no connection whatsoever with Odessa!"shouted one middle-aged supporter of Mr Yanukovich, her eyes wet with tears. In central and western regions, Mr Yushchenko's supporters are confident of a sweeping victory and the government apparatus, which worked hard to rally support for Mr Yanukovich in last month's vote, has been largely subdued. However, in southern and eastern regions, state organs remain powerful and continue to work for Mr Yanukovich's campaign.

In Sevastopol, according to Mr Nikityuk, it is the mayor, appointed by Mr Kuchma, and the local tax administration chief, appointed by Mr Yanukovich's government, who have done the most for Mr Yanukovich's campaign. In the Donbas, powerful business groups allied to Mr Yanukovich have taken the leading role. Throughout the south and east, elected mayors and city councils have become more active in supporting Mr Yanukovich.

Pavlo Ignatenko, a member of parliament who runs Mr Yushchenko's campaign headquarters in Sevastopol, says these councillors are not so much supporting Mr
Yanukovich as "fighting for their personal survival". "Many of them have done things for which they should be punished by a court of law. They are in a state of panic," he said.

More of the same.

More debate

This from Agence France Presse:

Ukraine opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko hammered his presidential rival for stealing votes as the two men faced off duringtheir sole televised debate days ahead of a historic re-run election.

"There is one reason why we are here -- the election of November 21 was stolen by my opponent and his team," Viktor Yushchenko said, speaking in Ukrainian, in his opening remarks in reference to a vote officially won by his rival but later annulled by the supreme court because of fraud. "You stole three million votes," he told his opponent Viktor Yanukovich, a prime minister who has taken a leave for the campaign.

The phrase set the tone for the rest of the nearly two-hour debate --Yushchenko, confident and on steady moral ground, challenging a Yanukovich who often rambled and at times seemed resigned to defeat. "Yushchenko was 100 percent sure that he will win the election and Yanukovich was 90 percent sure that he is going to lose," said Kostyantyn Kvurt, an analyst in Kiev.

This is what we saw. Reminds me of the biblical passage,"If the trumpet sound an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle." This can't be a good sign for Yanukovych supporters.

(Action Ukraine Report #268)

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The debate

The debate took place last night between Yanukovych and Yuschenko. Interesting. There is a temptation to rate this as a debate like we always do in the US but I don't think anybody other than the faithful look at these things that way. Who scored what points and who had a take down appeals to the base but these debates are not for the faithful. They are an attempt to reach others. That might be a bit naive to think of doing but I think that is why both sides agreed to it.

I thought before that it would be a mistake for Yuschenko to debate Yanukovych because he was like an incumbent with a large lead. By debating he risked letting Yanukovych look more competent and better able to be president. But I later decided that Yuschenko was looking more to appeal to the east and that in the east he was the underdog challenger. That would make any risks a debate might present more acceptable in the face of the potential for good things.

The real risk for Yanukovych was that he would not look like a strong candidate. And by strong I mean virile, tough, kind of party boss like as he has come across in the past. That is what his supporters are looking for. But if he did not come across that way the risk was that his base would be affected. If he didn't look tough he would look like a loser and his own supporters might just stay home, That would mean more efforts would be needed to fix the vote again in an atmosphere where there is a lot more scrutiny than last time. And there is less money to do it with and less of a willingness on the part of the officials to do it for someone who is not in power. This result was to be avoided.

I don't think he avoided it. I think he looked weak and sounded weak. He sounded like he was without any handlers, rambling and not able to make a solid point. At one stage of the debate, he even said that he was a KGB spy and that that had something to do with his being in prison. That can't be viewed as anything other than a howler. He filibustered like he did last time but he was more coherent last time. (His handlers no doubt.) He seemed to wander around a bit and to try and look personable but it didn't come across as anything that was coherent to me. He just looked weak.

I don't think his base is going to be happy with that showing last night. Not very good.

UPDATE: Anonymous in the comments section says that Yanukovych didn't claim to be a KGB agent but was speaking ironically. The relevant part:

[Yanukovych] You know what my life was like, how I grew up, and you know very well that I was convicted unlawfully. Today, by the way, your ally [Hryhoriy]
Omelchenko said that he knows why I was acquitted and why I had been tried unlawfully. It turns out I was a KGB agent, at Directorate 9.

And I thought Yanukovych was humorless.

Martial law

There is a lot to be said on this subject but I don't have any time today to do it. I will just say though that there is not anyone completely in charge of the government and the military and if it is thought that Kuchma would have a free hand in declaring and imposing martial law, that would be wrong. If he tried, it would create more unpredictability rather than less. Who would be following whom and for what purpose is not all that clear right now.

Of course the idea of terrorist kinds of acts would be a way of forcing him to do it. And that just might happen if the paramilitary guys are out there and are really up to something. (I would assume they are.) But if anyone thinks that that is some sort of clear shot for Kuchma and the oligarchs to retain power they had better think again. It is just not all that clear who is in charge of what here anymore.

Orange Christmas

Had to go out today and saw some vendors at the market selling orange Christmas trees along with the standard green. It was a bit odd for me and probably for a lot of other people but maybe some can't resist. A revolutionary Christmas.

Monday, December 20, 2004

A Possible Terrorist Act

In the comments to the last post, the indefatigable Ron points us to this report: Maidan - News - Hryhorij Omelchenko Denounces a Terror Act Being Prepared in Kyiv on December 27-28

Hryhorij Omelchenko denounces a terror act being prepared in Kyiv on December 27-28

Tonight in an ERA TV Channel broadcast, H. Omelchenko announced that fire-arms to be used by armed groups in Kyiv on December 27-28 had been brought from Sevastopol to Donetsk. The aim of the terror act is to provoke violence and give pretext for the introduction of the state of emergency and the prolongation of Kuchma’s plenary powers.

These groups are the same people Yanukovych meant when he was speaking about the “self-defense squads”. Interior Ministry leadership knows about the operation, but they took the stand of non-interference.

Thirty squads of 30 persons have already been prepared. The members of these groups are mostly criminals and sportsmen. Each group is headed by a “Berkut” special forces officer. By now the squads are equipped with weapons by 30 per cent of the planned. Omelchenko made public the complete list of these arms.

Yanukovych knows about the operation and is afraid to launch it, but his nearest surrounding, including Akhmetov and Kluyev, insists on its realization. The arms have been purchased from the Black Sea Navy of the Russian Federation. V. Putin is also aware of the planned actions.

H. Omelchenko addressed V. Putin with a demand to take immediate measures on the level of the Black Sea Navy command. L. Kuchma knows about the operation as well.

This morning H. Omelchenko has contacted A.Kluyev’s aide warning him about the possible consequences.

During the broadcast Omelchenko spoke Russian on purpose, so he could be understood without translation in Russia.

On Monday H. Omelchenko intends to speak to Smeshko, the Head of Ukrainian Security Service, to initiate an immediate investigation and to take adequate measures. He will also try to contact Yanukovych. During the broadcast he appealed to Yanukovych saying that he, as a believer, must stop and not cross a certain limit.

We wil have more to say on this in another post.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Internal Military?

This must have been what Radio ERA was referring to: Maidan - News - Donetsk General To Head Kyiv Internal Military?:

According to information sources in 'Ostrov', an urgent IM meeting was held last night in Kyiv, to which the former chief of internal military forces in Donetsk, General Vorobyov, was invited.

At the same time, according to MP Yuriy Pavlenko, a meeting of commanders of internal military forces and Kyiv Special Police Units is supposed to be held on Friday. The creation of a Kyiv territorial command center, to be headed by Donetsk's General Vorobyov, will be announced during this meeting. According to Yuri Pavlenko's comment for the 'Glavred' Internet portal, the forming of this command center is proceeding without the permission or knowledge of the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) of Ukraine, and the respective Verkhovna Rada committee is unaware of these developments.

Pavlenko summarizes all of this as an 'illegal police coup in Kyiv'. According to the MP, 'there are no guarantees that tomorrow's head of TC won't replace unit commanders with Donetsk people to completely control situation in Kyiv.' Pavlenko believes that 'armed people commanded by a certain political party represent a certain danger, since we don't know what kind of orders General Vorobyov will be giving.' According to the MP's information, the order to urgently create the territorial command center in Kyiv was given to Interior Minister Bilokon by Victor Yanykovych. At the same time, during his stay in Donetsk on December 11, Yanukovych announced during a Ukraina Channel TV broadcast that 'it's not within my mandate to work with law-enforcement organs while I'm on leave.'

Additionally 'Ostrov' has discovered that a regional meeting of the Interior Affairs Administration was held today in Donetsk. The administration has refused to provide information about General Vorobyov, maintaining that "he is not a police general."

After information from

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Election reforms violate civil rights

This is a good one from Interfax Ukraine:

Yanukovych repeated that the amendments to the election law adopted by Parliament undermine civil rights and discriminate against invalids and other citizens who cannot get to polling stations [provision cutting the right to vote from home, which was abused on a massive scale during the annulled second round of the election on 21 November]. "Our opponents have decided to fight our people in that way, but not to fight Yanukovych,"he said, calling on citizens able to do so to help invalids get to the polling stations. "We mustn't allow this to happen," he said. (Brackets not mine.) Action Ukraine Report #262

He also called his opponents "orange rats" and said the Ukrainian people would respond on December 26. After that, he said, "other answers would follow."

What a sweet guy. That light touch of his must have been acquired during the Soviet era, that tranquil and happy golden age of the Ukrainian people.

I think this guy must seethe in the dark.

Poisoning back and forth

In the press here, there had been some back and forth on the posoning issue. At first the clinic in Austria had confirmed poisoning, then it hadn't and people there had supposedly been threatened by Yuschenko supporters to make the claim. Later if was again , then it wasn't back around until the definitive report came out last week.

This explains at least a part of why this happened:

The extent of an apparent plot to poison Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine'sopposition leader, and then cover up the evidence now reaches across Europe. Yushchenko, who said he was poisoned with dioxin at a dinner with Ukraine's secret police, was found to have ingested 6,000 times the level of dioxin healthy people have, the Financial Times reported Friday.

Soon after Yushchenko first claimed he had been poisoned, President Leonid Kuchma's son-in-law [Viktor Pinchuk] engaged a French public relations team to initiate a media campaign, centered on a Vienna clinic, calculated to disparage the poisoning accusations, the newspaper said.

Yffic Nouvellon of EuroRSCG and his public relations team arranged a press conference where Lothar Wicke, general manager of Vienna's Rudolfinerhaus Clinic, contradicted Yushchenko's poisoning allegations. Nouvellon also contacted international media offering "evidence" Yushchenko had not been poisoned. When asked during the media campaign, Nouvellon denied any connections to Kuchma's family. The clinic's president has since cut its ties to Nouvellon and EuroRSCG.

(Action Ukraine Report #262)

No air time

Yanukovych complained yesterday that the television stations here do not air his complete speeches. This is of course true, they don't. They used to before what he calls the unconstitutional coup in Kiev.

Looks like the revolt of the press is complete.

Friday, December 17, 2004

For a good map

For a good map, Ron in the comments suggests

Scott... and others too!

A FREE and very neat map of the world, that you can swivel in globe form - zoom in or out, or pan in Cartesian or Mercator projection, is available within the equally VERY handy FREE world clock from PawPrint Your mouse identifies countries, and exact longitude and latitude.

I've found it absolutely indispensable - for many reasons, besides the fact I can keep track of time in 16 time zones at a glance (or any number more, if I need to.)

Alarms, stopwatch, calendar and other niceties make this a must have if you’re involved in international communication and travel – or just wanting to know what time it is anywhere in the world.

A counter revolution?

Yanukovych is quoted in this article from the Washington Post, Ukrainian Premier Foresees New Crisis, as saying that his supporters would never accept Yuschenko as president.

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said Thursday that he would not accept a victory by his opponent in the Dec. 26 rerun of Ukraine's contested presidential race and that his supporters were likely to turn out into the streets en masse to block such an outcome.

Yanukovych, who was the government-backed candidate in the contested vote of Nov. 21, said the country's political and judicial systems had buckled under the weight of what he called illegal demonstrations and were violating the constitution to orchestrate his defeat.

Yanukovych warned in an interview that he might not be able to control supporters who are already mobilizing to launch a campaign of street protests in the capital in the event of a victory by the opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko.

"Even if Mr. Yushchenko wins, he will never be a president of Ukraine," Yanukovych said in a 45-minute interview at his campaign headquarters in Kiev. "The people who voted for me, they will never recognize him. They are talking about it even now."

His comments suggested that his supporters intend to plunge Ukraine into a new political crisis by adopting some of the tactics employed in the "Orange Revolution," a name that arose from the color adopted by Yushchenko's street campaign to protest official election results in favor of Yanukovych following the Nov. 21 vote.

This apparently isn't all. According to the radio station ERA, Yanukovych supporters are forming, with his blessing, organizations that are implied to be paramilitary in nature. It was said that he has put a Donetsk man in charge of them.

On the first, it is hard to take this very seriously. It is sensational and it suggests again that Ukraine might be on the brink of some sort of civil war. And a lot of it rests on the assumption that since he is still Prime Minister, he has retained some sort of power.

The problem with it is that Yanukovych couldn't get anybody here without paying them the first time around. The workers in the east would have to abandon their jobs and make their way here to stage that kind of protest. They showed no willingness to do that except when they were paid to do it before. Many, many people from the east thought the original protest nonsense and that they were the one's hard at work making the country produce. There might be some motivated to do it but for many of them the coup has already taken place. What would the election and installment of Yuschenko add to that?

On the second, if there is anything to it at all, it would be a problem if Yanukovych could count on the military to make up his force. There is no indication that he is able to do that. He may be Prime Minister, but he has only the title, he had no effective power left here in Kiev. And it is hard for me to believe that a man without any power in Kiev and with power waning in the east would be able to count on defectors from the military to his side. (They have to be fed and paid and would they see any possibility of winning?) He had to lobby Kuchma to call out the military in the first place when that option was considered. That suggests he has no base of support there that could be counted on for something like this.

That leaves other citizens. He has always been able to count on thugs to do the work for him. He might be organizing them now in Kiev. There were rumors that Yanukovych was reponsible, for instance, for any early release of criminals who set up camp just off Kreschatik down from the Cabinet of Minister's building. They apparently stayed for a couple of days, got cold and left. He might be able to count on people like this but I doubt if he can count on any loyalty from them to any greater extent than he is willing to pay for it.

The problem with any group like that doing anything is that first, if they want to get serious about it, they will be coming up against the military and the police. Will they bring roses and ask them how they are doing? The second problem is that they think by shutting down the buildings of government, they will shut down the government. It is true that that worked against Kuchma and Yanukovych but it worked because they are systems men and rely on the systems of government to control and to manipulate. You block the buildings, you cut them off from their systems and they become incompetent.

But Yuschenko and his group have shown themselves to be able to create government on the streets or anywhere they can get together. Their source of power is entirely different and they used it to advantage in the protests. The point is that they could govern from a tent on Kreschatik and do it very effectively.

Of course this doesn't mean there won't be protests. I think there will be but they won't be large or effective and could die out quite quickly. The potentially more effective protests I think will come later though as Yuschenko attempts to modernize and rationalize the economy.

But the fact is that Yanukovych has lost all the power he had except for the power to run his mouth off. He is Prime Minister in name only and could only barely summon up enough personal credibility and authority to maybe lead a parched horse to water--maybe.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

A change in oligarchs only?

Here's a rather typical argument made against Yuschenko. Tymoshenko's Past. It's a letter to the editor of the Moscow Times. (The MT had published a rather flattering article on Yulia Tymoshenko.)

From your article one would think that all a person has to do is put on a traditional Ukrainian braid and she is suddenly a national hero. This article not only stretched the limits of reality but also the patience of readers, such as me, who are already weary of the unabashed support of The Moscow Times for the so-called opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko.

However, presenting the kleptocrat Yulia Tymoshenko as a Horatio Alger rags-to-riches fairy-tale hero and modern-day Ukrainian Joan of Arc is pushing sensibility to the breaking point. This woman was gorging on caviar bought with her stolen wealth when the people in the crowds now standing before her and cheering her demagogic speeches could barely feed their families. While you hint in your article that she kind of dabbled in the energy business, you might have been a bit more specific, for example, by mentioning just how she got involved in the business and the extent of her involvement.

According to recent media reports, one of Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko's first moves in office was to wrest half a dozen lucrative energy concessions from several big private groups and give Tymoshenko a nationwide monopoly on the import and distribution of Russian natural gas. Thus Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine was born, and Tymoshenko gained control over nearly 20 percent of Ukraine's gross national product, an enviable position that probably no other private company in the
world could boast.

Not bad for a small family business. No wonder she's such a patriot.

For 13 years, Ukraine has been such an economic basket case that the people in Belarus have felt proud of their own economic achievements. While literally every economic sphere in Ukraine was suffering, Tymoshenko managed to acquire four personal jets and steal up to $3 billion, possibly more. Don't you think it a bit coincidental that Tymoshenko got herself into the parliament, or Verkhovnaya Rada, where she obtained immunity from prosecution while her associates who didn't "go into politics" are now all behind bars? Sure she got put in the slammer for a month, but then she wiggled free, thanks to intervention by the then-prime minister, Yushchenko.

Let's be honest, it wasn't spunky Tymoshenko's fiery speeches that kept the crowds in Kiev. It was the financing she personally has put into the movement along with that of the West, particularly the United States, and the yearlong effort of logistics preparation that made it possible for the crowds to wave their orange banners and have a little holiday in Kiev.

Painting the Gas Princess as some kind of revolutionary folk hero is beyond naive.

Don't you think she has personal financial interest in the outcome of Ukraine's current power struggle? After all, if Yushchenko allowed her to help herself to large chunks of Ukraine's national wealth when he was head of the Central Bank and prime minister, just imagine what she could get away with if he were president. Not to mention the payoff she would get from her Western sponsors.

The Moscow Times' support of this merry duo of oligarch thieves is not only a blatant disregard for the trust its readers place in the press to uphold objective reporting, but it is shocking that such a publication would back two common 1990s kleptocrats, thus advocating the transfer of power in Ukraine to people who helped strip its economy in the first place. This certainly is begging to let the mice guard the cheese.

Instead of prince and princess, these two conjure up images of Bonnie and Clyde.

Of course you were sure to make mention in the article that all charges against Tymoshenko were "political," but there seems to be a strange pattern developing here; when people steal billions of dollars and then get arrested for it, the crimes all
become political. Surprising, but when the same politics helped them get wealthy, no one seemed to complain.

Whether it's Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Russia or Tymoshenko and Yushchenko in Ukraine, no one is ever guilty of illegally gaining their vast fortunes.

So now The Moscow Times and all the other cheerleaders in the Western press had better ask themselves the hard, honest question: Are these really the kind of people you would want running Ukraine, or your own countries, for that matter?

Some of this is a problem on its face. If Yuschenko had the power to get her out of jail, how come he didn't have the power to prevent her from going in in the first place? To do both things, he would have had to go through the prosecutors, so why would he not have been able to keep her her out in the first place but have been able to get her out after she went in? (She says that a judge actually helped her and he has suffered for that ever since.)

She says that the government canceled the gas contracts with the Russians. This can be verified. This writer doesn't indicate that she is still in control of Unified Energy Systems something she says she isn't. (The company is bankrupt according to her.) If the contracts were in fact canceled and the company is bankrupt, why? No one in government to come to her aid? What about Yuschenko?

The writer suggests that Tymoshenko became a member of Parliament to escape the justice that she is rightfully owed. The problem with this is the same problem with using flight as evidence of guilt. She might just as well have become a member of Parliament to escape the unjust persecution she was being subject to under the guise of the law.

One of the things that has suffered here for a long time is the rule of law. Someone has said that this area of the world has the rule of law--except when it matters. That is the case in the Ukraine. (The same can be said for other areas of the world too, but that is a different story.) In the Ukraine as it is in Russia--note Yukos--enforcement of the law has often been a cover for what was really going on, turf wars among clans, extortion attempts by those in power, moves to consolidate political power in some way by getting rid of the opposition, etc. The law is often only a camouflage for what is really going on.

So she could just as well have become a member of Parliament to escape persecution by the power elites as she could have to escape any alleged crime.

Payoff from Western sponsors? I wonder what form that would take? Cash? Isn't she a billionaire? From the US and the EU? Wouldn't she have come in for a bigger payoff had she changed sides and worked with Yanukovych and the Russians? Maybe her gas contracts back? What could she get from the US and the EU that could benefit her more?

And he trumpets what is getting to be a wearying assertion that US logistics and money made the thing go. I bet he would also say that the people were paid to stay out in the cold. I stayed out there for a number of hours and never once saw the guy who was supposed to be doing the paying. I didn't see him because he was only around in the minds of the people who supported Yanukvoych.

He mentions Lazarenko. Lazarenko is in prison for money laundering and that prison is a US prison. He was tried and convicted in a US district court for laundering money--a crime against the US--and not for anything else. (I talked to one of the investigating agents from the US on the case. Very interesting.) Why wasn't Tymoshenko tried for money laundering also if she was one of his associates? She was never charged with it. The writer would say that that was because of her powerful friends and/or maybe because of plans by the US to have her be a leader in the revolution this year. That would be some real good planning. But not being charged with a crime is also consistent with not being guilty of the crime. I was not charged with money laundering in the Lazarenko case either. Neither were a few billion other people for the same reasons. We weren't involved.

Who are the others in prison? He doesn't say.

But the thing that strikes me most about this letter is the tone. Why all the bile? There might be an argument to be made about her business practices in the past, though I don't know enough about it to comment on. (She says that anyone doing business at that time could be prosecuted for doing business back then. That is true because of the lack of rule of law and no respect for any considerations of ex post facto.) But why is there so much acid here when the alternative, a Yanukovych-Donetsk clan, would have maintained oligarchs and their fellow travelers in charge. It's not as if Yuschenko or Tymoshenko, assuming that they were the worst he said they are, would be taking over from a government that was all sweetness, truth and light. It would simply be a matter of switching oligarchs not of a coup directed at a functional democratic government.

In other words, what was the alternative over which so much bitterness is coming out. There is none.

So why all the bile?

Let's assume that there is a switch of oligarchs only, that the people took to the streets and all they ended up with was a different set of rulers that themselves want to get their hands back in the trough. (I don't believe this is the case, but I am assuming.) Does that mean that all there is is the status quo? Does this mean that all the people got for their efforts were a different set of the same kind of people? No.

Yuschenko has the power he has for one simple reason: the people. If it weren't for the people, he would not be in the position he is in. These people got out of their houses, some of them left their jobs, braved rumors--well founded as it turned out--of imminent attacks by thugs or of a crackdown by the military, and gathered on the square and around public buildings to get things changed. This represents a fundamental change in this country. No politician has ever ridden to power here on the backs of a popular movement. And that is a good thing. To be a bad thing, Yuschenko would have to turn his back on the people and rule like Kuchma ruled. Is that likely? I don't think so now. The people can take to the streets just as assuredly for Yuschenko abuses as they have done for Kuchma/Yanukovych abuses. And it doesn't even have to be the threat that they will do it. It's the fact that they might do it that would be a source of problems for a government that would seek to rule like Kuchma/Yanukovych did.

And the Verkhovna Rada is stronger than it was. That might present opportunities for more manipulation because the Yuschenko's party is more in control. But it is not so clear that they are beholden to Yuschenko so much as that they have finally realized the people are out there and they can make them or break them.

The Supreme Court is also stronger than it was. It actually showed signs of life and stood up when it counted and changed everything. It did it in the best constitutional traditions too. If they hoard their newfound power and use it wisely, they can have an effect on the government--on any government-- that they could not have had before. And that effect is to the benefit of democracy here.

And to see what either side might do it is a good thing to review what they actually have done.

But that is for another post.

Something interesting

In December 20th's New Republic, Masha Gessen, a Moscow reporter says the following:

For a while, the big question debated in both Moscow and Kiev was whether Putin would take action--after the Ukrainian opposition refused to concede--that would lead to bloodshed. Warranted or not, the assumption among liberals and Putinites alike seemed to be that Ukrainian pro-government forces would never open fire on the Ukrainian opposition--but that Russian special forces, stationed in Kiev, could start the fighting. As the Kremlin ratcheted up cold war-style rhetoric, the fear deepened. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made a fiery statement last week blaming the West for the tension in Ukraine and clearly implying that any bloodshed would be on the West's hands. Domestically, the Kremlin didn't mince words either: RBC, an influential pro-Putin news service, published a story calling Russian supporters of the Ukrainian protestors "a fifth column" and warning that a dangerous fate awaits them when they return home.

(I can't find a link to it at the New Republic website. I got it from Johnson's Russia list. Will update it if I do.)

Apparently there was talk about this in Russia both from liberals (that is democracy supporters not Kerry supporters) and Putin supporters. Both sides agreed on the premise.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Tymoshenko and Interpol

I have been interested in the criminal case that Russian prosecutors say they have against Yulia Tymoshenko. I read the other day that they had a warrant issued and that it would be filed with Interpol. I looked at Interpol's site and there is no information on it yet.

Tymoshenko said a couple of weeks ago that if there was a warrant out with Interpol she would not be meeting in public but would be in hiding.

Not many people know this but Interpol has no international arrest power. They are an information gathering and dissemination organization only. Any warrant that is lodged with them depends on local authorities to make the arrest. In this case, that would mean Ukrainian law enforcement authorities. Extradition proceedings would be what followed.

It would be interesting to see if the authorities here would do it. She does have immunity as a member of Parliament but Russia says that it is not an absolute immunity. They believe that she could legally be extradited to face a trial in Russia. We'll have to see.

Checks and balances

This is an interesting analysis of the constitutional reform: Who won Ukraine's 'Orange Revolution'? It takes a more positive view than some others might.

The constitutional reform suggests that the balance of power in the country will be radically shifted from the president to the parliament and the prime minister. Most Ukrainian commentators agree that Ukraine is poised for a transformation from its current presidential system to a parliamentary one. If Yushchenko eventually becomes the head of state, he will thus have significantly curtailed his prerogatives in comparison with those of outgoing President Leonid Kuchma. The power shift will occur on 1 September 2005 if the Verkhovna Rada approves the bill on local self-government 'in the second reading' prior to that date, or, failing such passage, it will automatically go into effect on 1 January 2006. Yushchenko is apparently disconcerted with that prospect. He avoided any reference to the constitutional-reform bill while recounting the events of the day to his sea of orange on Independence Square. Indeed, he even was not among those 78 deputies of his parliamentary caucus who supported the package of bills intended to resolve the political crisis. What's more, the parliamentary caucus headed by his staunch political ally and prominent firebrand Yuliya Tymoshenko voted against the reform bill.

Ironically, it was Kuchma -- whose handpicked successor was denied the presidency on the strength of opposition outcry and subsequent events -- who assumed the role of a victor on 8 December. Kuchma claimed the lion's share of the credit for the historic political compromise as he signed the reform bill immediately after its passage. Kuchma and his aides devised the political reform as a stratagem for remaining in the political game beyond 2004 through their leverage in a parliament reinforced with extensive powers regardless of who wins the presidency. At first glance, everything appears to point to a scenario in which a Yushchenko victory is offset by a parliament filled with Kuchma cronies: Yanukovych has arguably lost credibility in the eyes of voters, and the parliament is set to become a pivotal player in the country a year from now. But what of the Ukrainian people, whom the "orange revolution" has miraculously transformed from a pliant electorate into mature and responsible citizens? It is difficult to imagine them allowing Ukrainian politicians to play backstage political games on the scale of the Kuchma era.

The belief that the Ukrainian president will become a figurehead following the implementation of the constitutional reform is an obvious misconception. This misconception might have originated and been nourished for both domestic and foreign consumption by Yushchenko's camp, which entered the 2004 election campaign in an "all-or-nothing-at-all" mood. True, the president loses the right to nominate all cabinet ministers under the constitutional reform. But the president retains the right to propose the country's prime minister, defense minister, and foreign minister for parliamentary approval. No less important, the president has the sole right to appoint all regional governors. And the president's right to dissolve the parliament if it fails to form a viable government coalition can be an effective tool for defusing political conflicts and shaping government policy.

On the other hand, the reform offers an increased set of checks and balances in government, making many important decisions dependent on concerted agreement between the presidency, the legislature, and the cabinet. What can be seen as an impediment to an efficient presidency is in fact an indisputable gain for Ukrainian democracy. It appears that in the long run, the most important achievement of Ukraine's "orange revolution" in 2004 will be neither the democratized presidential-election law (that can be changed at any time by a simple majority in the Verkhovna Rada) nor even Yushchenko's likely presidency. The key accomplishment just might be the constitutional reform that seeks to dismantle the authoritarian executive system of power, so characteristic of many post-Soviet states, and recast it into something more similar to European-model democracy.

Last but not least, providing the parliament with a decisive voice in most political decisions in Ukraine seems the best possible way to heal the country's troubling east-west divide. That rift is more likely to be healed if the responsibility for such decisions lies with 450 deputies elected all across Ukraine, rather than by one man elected by half the country...

I would be more inclined to this position if all other things were equal. But all other things are not equal. The power of the presidency was one of the problems here but it was not the biggest problem here. Corruption is and has been the single biggest problem in Ukrainian politics. It deforms the politicians, their policies, government institutions, businesses and the economy. Dealing with it is the big issue and Yuschenko, who has pledged himself to dealing with it, is going to need all the power he can get to have any chance to do it. Watering down the powers of the presidency just when someone is going to be elected that might do something about this just doesn't seem like the best thing to have done. Is what results from it more democratic than what has been the case in Ukraine since Independence as is argued here? Maybe. But democracy cannot take root and thrive when the institutions of government which are guarantors of that democracy can be warped to suit the ends of anyone with money or power.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

A domed cathedral

My wife and I went over to the other side of the Dnieper River the other day to check on the progress of our new apartment. (They are building one out for us.) We usually come back a different way than we go because the traffic is easier and, on that way, we pass an Orthodox cathedral. It is the typical onion domed cathedral you find here. (I say typical but it is anything but typical to people from other areas of the world, especially the US.) Often the domes of these cathedrals are brass or gilded in some way and they shine in the sunlight. With this one though the domes were painted a light blue; the roof and other trim were painted a light green. These colors are of more pastel shades, much like some of the colors I remember buildings in Spain being painted with when we drove through. The rest of the cathedral was painted white.

We have passed this cathedral a number of times and I rarely notice it. This time though I noticed the fact that I didn't notice it anymore. That was interesting to me. I guess it happens when you get too familiar with a place, no matter what that place is or where it is.

But the thing is if you notice, Kiev is a fascinating place with lots of things to see and lots of history. When I first got here, I was absolutely amazed at being behind what had been the Iron Curtain. The Soviet Union had been the enemy for my whole life and now I was in the belly of that beast. Kiev and Ukraine were fascinating to me for that fact alone.

But there is a history here from before the Soviet period. And it goes back a long time, a thousand or more years. It is something the Soviets didn't-- or couldn't-- destroy. And it is here to be seen.

I have been writing about all the bad things in Ukraine for the past few weeks. But there is a lot of good here and a lot of things that are interesting to see. They need to be noted more often.

More on crackdown

A Fistful of Euros finds this article from the Financial Times, Ukraine president spurned pressure over protesters, very interesting and it is. It give us a little more information on why there wasn't a crackdown.

This might of course be the official version let out for what comes down to a matter of skin saving-- a point that FFE makes--so it has to be taken with a grain of salt. But it is interesting and tracks well with some of the reports and rumors making the rounds at the time.

The Financial Times has learned that the administration of Leonid Kuchma, the authoritarian president, considered deploying troops against the crowds of protesters gathered in central Kiev in support of Viktor Yushchenko, the opposition leader.

Those lobbying for the use of force included senior officials, among them Viktor Medvedchuk, the head of the Ukrainian presidential administration and Viktor Yanukovich, the prime minister.

According to people inside and outside Mr Kuchma's administration, the president resisted the pressure and the danger passed.

Vasyl Baziv, the deputy head of the administration (cautionary lights flashing), is quoted as saying that though he was lobbied hard, Kuchma was against the use of force. The FT quotes Western officials as saying that the pressure on Kuchma was intense to use troops to put down the protest. These same officials say that Kuchma called off the troops because he did not want blood on his hands.

The FT uses the word "apparently" when quoting these Western diplomats. The troops were "apparently" called off because he did not want blood on his hands. This is speculation if it is not tied to something else. It suggests that Kuchma might have been interested in some sort of legacy as Pinchuk has said he is. I guess it is possible he is interested in something like that, but, if he is, it is something he has come to lately. The fact is that Kuchma has never shown himself to be concerned for much of anything other than his own interests, the interests of his family and the interests of those useful to him.

What I think is more likely is that that is the reason decided on when Kuchma could no longer guarantee the result. At the tme they were set to act, I think there was no longer any assurance the military, or a significant portion of it, would follow the order. And there was the distinct possibility that once an order to fire was given that the military would turn and fire in the opposite direction. The point is that once the firing started there was no guarantee that there might not be some sort of rebellion in the ranks. Once a rebellion happened, there would be no way to ensure they would not come for him. In other words, if the order was given and the military acted, the blood on his hands just might be his own.

I think Kuchma was acting to save his own skin.

"The key moment came on Sunday, November 28 (a week after crowds took to Kiev streets), when soldiers were given bullets. Then they were going around not with empty machine guns, but already fully armed. I think that was the peak of the
whole conflict," Mr Yushchenko said...

[On that day] Mr Kuchma chaired a meeting of the key National Security Council which discussed plans for armed action. Western diplomats say intelligence reports showed interior ministry troop movements around Kiev. One senior western diplomat says: "There were credible reports that troops were moving on Kiev."

The real question is why they waited so long?

UPDATE: There is an interesting argument that Kuchma might be wanting to blame Yanukovych for the whole thing. I wonder though who gave the order for the troop movements in and around Kiev? Would it have been Yanukovych if he is the one that is supposed to get the blame for it all? Seems doubtful.

Monday, December 13, 2004

US intervention

There are still articles being written about US funding of the revolution which is put on a par with Moscow funding of Yanukovych. But the US funded NGOs and parallel vote counts along with voter education activities in Ukraine, not anything else. But all of these are said to have been with the intent to create, if not a revolution, then at least a win for Yuschenko. Why? To spite Moscow and to draw Ukraine out of its sphere.

But this kind of talk is a lot like a woman looking to kill her husband who decides to do it by cooking high cholesterol meals. He might die of a heart attack or he might not, it is hard to say. But it seems like a more direct method would be a whole lot smarter--and more indicative of an intent to get the thing done.

The putsch

I can’t find where it is right now so I have no link, but Unian reported on Friday, I think it was, that Yanukovych was using the term putsch in a talk given in the east. (I am sure of the word but not sure of the day.) Just when I was beginning to feel the slightest bit sorry for the guy, he starts using Nazi talk to stir up the people in the east. I guess a dog will pick through its own vomit and it looks like Yanukovych is no different. This makes him one of the species of men (and some women) who would court revolution and would pull down institutions in ruins around him just to win. To stand on top of smoldering ruins, but to stand on top. A reprehensible man.

I should have saved it-- it was torn up and thrown away before I could-- but the kids brought home a half sheet flier divided into two frames from the Yanukovych campaign. On the left was a picture of a Nazi rally from Nuremburg complete with fasces (we get the word “fascist” from them), flags with swastika, and the Nazi salute. Looking at that frame, the phrase “Seig heil!,” was just begging to be said. Instead, the caption read “Jah!”

In the other frame on the right side was a picture from a Yuschenko rally, flags flying and hands waving. The caption on that side read, “Tak!” which is Ukrainian for “yes” and was one of the campaign slogans for Yuschenko. The comparison was meant to be made and it was made in the minds of many in the east. Yuschenko and his supporters would recreate what to them would be the equivalent of National Socialism—the Nazis.

In the US, we had to put up with comparisons of Bush to Hitler in the last election. It was inaccurate, of course, and tasteless but Hitler does not have much of a resonance with Americans except in the abstract, at least anymore. He was a bad man over there who killed a lot of people and started the Holocaust which killed a lot more people—Jews—“other” people, not us. But that was over there and not over here. Many served in the war but not very many lives were touched directly by any of it all that much in the US.

But in Ukraine, Hitler remains a current evil in the lives of many. Many were touched directly by him and by the Nazis. They actually occupied large portions of Ukraine and had been fighting and bombing here before that. Hitler even had his eastern headquarters out near Livov, in Western Ukraine, conveniently for Yanukovych, the center of Yuschenko support. My wife’s grandmother can tell stories of the Nazis when they came to her village. The stories are harrowing and horrific but she is only one of many, many people who are still living who can remember the Nazi occupation. As a matter of fact, we listened to a woman yesterday who talked about being young during the war but hearing the bombs falling and exploding in the area where she lived, Nazi bombs. Many people can bear witness to this.

We took our family out for a picnic this past summer to some woods just west of where we live now. When we got to the place where we were going to eat, I noticed some pits that were in the area, a number of them, that had trash in the bottom. It seemed odd to me that they would dig such a thing, a trash pit, out in the open in such a nice place but I just chalked it up to different ways of doing things. It turned out though they were not trash pits but bomb craters from German bombing runs along this forest area. They were looking to destroy the partisans who took refuge in the forests around Kiev. This was an amazing thing for me to see firsthand. You can stand there and the scream of Stuka bombers overhead seems a reality.

And you can find tunnels and ditches in other forests in other parts of Kiev made by these same partisans who fought not only Germans but Communists too in WWII—they shot in both directions. (The second part of this is conveniently forgotten in most histories. Many were shot after the war by Stalin. They couldn’t be trusted.) These are reminders, present day reminders, to the people of what the Nazis did in this country to the people of this country.

So Nazis and Nazism and Hitler are all present memories to a lot of people here. And many of them understand him and them from their own experience to be the monster he was and the monsters they were. The people are understandably sensitive to anything that might signal a return of this.

Enter Yanukovych with his putsch talk. A putsch is what Hitler made in Germany to seize power. And power he got. What Yanukovych is saying is that the Nazis have staged a coup in Kiev and have taken over the government in the guise of Yuschenko. The only thing standing in the way of their moving east it would seem is Yanukovych and his group. The problem with this is that many believe this even people who are educated.

Yuschenko may have courted some of this by a political alliance of sorts with some of the nationalist parties, I don't know. But politics makes strange bedfellows at times. It is interesting to note though that the Communists have allied themselves with the government and Yanukovych on many issues but that fails to stir the imagination, notwithstanding all of the people killed by Stalin in the great famine here—possibly as high as 10 million—as well as many others in the purges. (Some are putting the figure at 50 million, a number that is higher than the current population of Ukraine.) What does stir the imagination is the Nazis and Yanukovych is using it to effect—to the infamy of his name.

Karl Malone

Some more melodrama from the NBA. MSNBC - Incident involving Kobe's wife sparked feud with Malone.

There's not much to say about this except that it might be a bit of overcompensation and that the NBA is looking more and more like there's been a merger between the daytime soaps and the WWF.

But this is about Malone and he was a big part of Salt Lake sports while I was there. The Jazz started out as nothing--they couldn't pay even their telephone bill--and have ended up a significant franchise. And Malone was a part of that to be sure.

And Malone has set records and will probably end up in the hall of fame because of them. But the thing that fans in Salt Lake had to put up with from him was the constant carping about how no one cared about what he had brought to the franchise.

Well one thing he didn't bring was a championship. If it hadn't been for a couple of free throws Malone choked on, they would have had one. The fans were peeved about it but not as peeved as they would have been in New York or Los Angeles or Philadelphia, where they would have called for his head. Jazz fan's were rather sedate in comparison.

But when they did react on one talk radio show in particular, Malone's wife called in and berated fans with the standard line, that they were ungrateful about all he had brought to the franchise and to Salt Lake. In the end, Malone couldn't take even what was rather tepid criticism comparatively speaking, so he took his ball and went home--so to speak.

You hate to see it with anybody because it is a pitiful sight, but Malone looks like he might end up going from team to team as a backup and then finally booted when he gets a year or two older.

So what does this have to do with the Ukraine? Not a thing. I just couldn't resist.