A Crucial Night in Kiev

The Ukrainian election is turning into a huge story, as careful observers had suspected. At stake is whether Ukraine — as big as France, with a population of 48m — will make a decisive political turn toward Euro-Atlantic structures, or whether it will go down the CIS road of defective democracies and subordination to Russia.

(Not blogging it earlier was a blunder, but I’ve had my eye on it, working with a project to present analyses at a Berlin conference on December 6; the papers are obviously on hold, awaiting events.)

That Yanukovych is attempting to steal the election is clear. Two regions in eastern Ukraine are reporting voter turnouts of 98 percent. These Stalinesque numbers are simply not credible, and reports indicate that the difference in just these two regions would be enough to turn the election. Every independent observation group has said there were significant flaws in the election. I think they’re waiting a little to see which way the wind is blowing before coming out with stronger statements.

The central election commission has called the election for Yanukovych, the prime minister and Russian president Putin’s clear favorite.

At present, 100,000 people are in Kiev’s main square at a rally for Yushchenko, the opposition leader who stands for a clear European vocation for the country. The atmosphere is peaceful, happy, electric. One of our authors reports consistent rumors that Yushchenko is negotiating with the security forces to help him or remain neutral.

(BBC and CNN have finally made this the lead story on their Europe pages.)

The city councils in Kiev, Lviv and three other cities in western Ukraine have refused to recognize Yanukovych as president. Putin sent his congratulations to Yanukovych before the official results were announce.

A special session of Parliament has been called, and a prominent ally of Yushchenko has called for a general strike.

In the footage I’ve seen from the main square in Kiev, the new Georgian flags were prominently being waved, suggesting that a pre-revolutionary situation may be well underway.

More as this develops.

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, Ukraine and tagged , , , by Doug Merrill. Bookmark the permalink.

About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

4 thoughts on “A Crucial Night in Kiev

  1. The fate of Georgia or Belorussia, indeed. Let’s hope the Belgrade revolution can be copied another time!

    But one thing that clouds my happiness is that Yushchenko is a nationalist: if he defeats the mafiosi cleptocrats, serious conflict with large minorities (above all, Russian) is guaranteed – and this is would not play out like the shameful but peaceful story of the Baltic states.

  2. Hm. After reading through Neeka’s Backlog linked to in the previous post by Nick, my happiness would be a lot less clouded.

  3. Europhobia has some good links on this, by the way.

    As I said there, and you mentioned at the end, I’m thinking that the parallels with Georgia are a hopeful sign that this may be resolved peacefully. It’s also interesting to note that the same geopolitical concerns are at play behind the scenes as in Tbilisi (as they were to some extent in Belgrade as well) – a pro-Moscow government challenged from the streets by a pro-Western opposition with the long-term prospects of EU/NATO expansion into the former USSR clashing with the desire of Moscow to reassert its influence over the old Empire.

  4. To be honest, if this is all resolved in favor of Yushchenko, I don’t think there will be major (or really, even minor) conflicts among Ukrainians/Russians/Tatars/Others. . . At least, no more than already exists.

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