"Dirty doesn't begin to describe this election. During the campaign, opposition activists were beaten up, rallies were disrupted and state-controlled TV spewed propaganda smearing Yushchenko as an enemy of the people backed by America. Kremlin political advisers openly boasted of how they issued daily instructions "temnyki" to news executives dictating what issues to cover and how. There was vintage Soviet-era thuggery. Earlier this fall Yushchenko was apparently poisoned, falling near fatally ill hours after a private dinner with the head of the SBU, the country's secret service. His face, movie-star handsome before the episode, pockmarked and scarred afterward, is exhibit A for those who say the authorities tried to kill him. Just before last week's vote, Yushchenko's supporters say, a heavily loaded truck tried repeatedly to ram his car.
Fraud was everywhere in evidence. There was nothing subtle about it, perhaps because the government had to go to such extremes to manufacture a plurality. 'This election was stolen in broad daylight,' says Stephen Sestanovich, a former U.S. ambassador in the region and an election monitor sent to Ukraine by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Washington. It's not enough to condemn the ballot as flawed or even illegitimate, as many international organizations have done, he adds. 'My preferred word is 'criminal'.'
International observers recorded an astounding variety of abuses. Yanukovych loyalists were issued certificates allowing them to cast absentee ballots wherever they wished, then transported by bus or minivan from polling station to polling station where they voted repeatedly. Intimidation was routine. At military institutions, cadets were instructed how to vote. At a state-ownedalcohol refinery in the central Ukraine town of Zhytomyr, Yanukovych representatives came to the company director and told him that he would be fired if his workers did not support their candidate. Similar pressure was applied at state hospitals and universities; many were supplied with ballots already filled out. In Zaporizhzhia, in southern Ukraine, European observers watched as stacks of blank ballots were taken into a back room, then returned after being checked for Yanukovych. When two members of the Ukrainian Parliament objected, the lights mysteriously went out and unknown assailants beat them up.
Turnout was high across the country, nowhere more so than in pro-Yanukovych eastern Ukraine. There, an improbable 96 percent of registered voters cast ballots. At one polling station in Donetsk, observers for the NDI recorded more than twice as many votes as there were people on the official voting list—a not uncommon phenomenon. In pro-Yushchenko districts, the game was to disqualify as many citizens as possible, often by posing technical challenges to the final count that would be resolved by a show of hands on an election committee dominated by government appointees. Early on Election Day in Simferopol, reports Sestanovich, one Yanukovych official proudly pointed out a small narushenia, or "violation," not noticed by his rivals. "Oh, yes," he said. "That will allow us to disqualify the entire ballot," worth some 1,700 votes for Yushchenko. Some of the trickery was almost juvenile. In one pro-Yushchenko district, NDI observers found (and kept as evidence) pens with invisible ink. Mark your ballot and, poof, within six minutes it would record a vote for... no one...
The whole article is good.