I was talking to my brother-in-law last night. He was one who was down on the square most every day during the Orange Revolution. In fact, I was with him at Maidan on the night of the first election, November 21st, I think it was, when the protests started. That was a Sunday night, described here.
It was kind of funny because when we met at the subway that night, he seemed to be filled out a bit more than I had remembered. He had on a winter coat but that coat was not thick enough to account for the extra bulk he seemed to have. I didn’t mention it at the time—I thought I might not have judged it right-- and just let it go.
Later, my wife was talking to my sister-in-law and she said that that Saturday before we went, the day before, she thought she heard her husband sawing wood in another part of their apartment. She went to look for him and when she found him, he was sawing wood. When she asked him what he was doing, he hemmed and hawed a bit before he told her that he was putting together some protection—some wood on the front like a breastplate and wood on the back-- in case he went down to Maidan the next day. Wood was the only thing he had to do it with, and the only thing it would stop would have been a knife or blows from a truncheon. It wouldn’t have stopped any bullets from any caliber carried by the police or the military. He knew this but thought that most of the problem would come from crowd dispersion measures rather than from a wholesale gunning-down by the military. He did though accept that as a possibility and something he risked because later that week, when he had been down on the square for a couple of days, he asked me to take care of his wife in case he was killed or imprisoned. The way he put was, “If I don’t come back.”
That’s just some background.
Talking to him last night, he was of the opinion that Tymoshenko hadn’t had enough time to do what she needed to do; she was fired before she could make things better. I think that is the opinion of a lot of Ukrainian supporters of the OR. They think that Tymoshenko was working to reform the system and was sacked before she could finish.
One of the things he mentioned was pensions and government wages. He said that now she was out there would be no increases in pensions and government wages. Though he isn’t affected by either of these—he works in the private sector—increasing both of these is seen by a lot of people as a measure of government effectiveness and even justice. The fact is that pensions have been rather low for a long time, since the economic collapse in the later 90s. The hryvna was devalued and wages and pensions were caught in that devaluation. To make that up is a kind of test of government effectiveness for some people. Tymoshenko resonates with that.
He also told me that a couple of guys at his work had said that Yuschenko was now in with that “bandit” Yanukovych. He proved it by signing that memorandum. My brother-in-law didn’t say if he agreed with that assessment. I think he isn’t settled about that right now. Out of respect for Yuschenko, his mind isn’t made up on that point, at least not yet. This I think is good news for Yuschenko if it is widespread and I think it is. (Others we know say things like, “I don’t know who to believe!” Shows their minds are not made up.) I don’t think people have made up their minds yet about it because they have a lot invested in Yuschenko. But he does have to communicate with them more. I think people are looking for Yuschenko to come and tell them what he has done and why he had to do it. He hasn’t done that yet. He needs to do it.
A new poll out says that Yuschenko has about 20% approval. That doesn’t contradict what I have said. People are upset with him but that doesn’t necessarily mean this is their final position about him. I think they are registering their dissatisfaction. And they ought to.
The interesting thing is that although Tymoshenko polled better than Yuschenko, she was only a couple of points better. Her approval rating is at around 22%. Not good news.
It might be that disapproval of Yuschenko will translate into bad poll numbers for anyone involved with him in the OR. Show Tymoshenko suffers. If Yuschenko builds his case separate from Tymoshenko, she will be left with the worst of both worlds. And there is some argument that she has made a number of mistakes on her own that leave her in a weakened position. That is the argument here. (Need to read it carefully, the translation is a little rough.)