Behind the scenes

The Financial Times has an interesting article about how the Ukrainian government did consider the use of force against the protestors, but eventually backed down, mainly because President Kuchma blocked it.

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.

“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.

Vasyl Baziv, the deputy head of the presidential administration, told the FT: “I know that many representatives of the [state] apparatus lobbied the president to impose a state of emergency. They said it is time to use state power. The president, from the first moment, was consistently against the use of force.”

I suspect that there’ll be quite a few stories like this over the coming weeks – and if Yushchenko does win on December 26, as everyone assumes, the trickle will become a flood as everyone starts trying to blame everyone else for all that went wrong. One can read this report as being Kuchma trying to get his story into the arena first – as part of his ongoing attempt to get amnesty after he leaves office – by portraying himself as the man who didn’t want to “leave office with blood on his hands.”

However, it is interesting to note how the reports match up with some of the rumours that were going about at the time of the crisis, particularly the idea that the clampdown would begin after the CEC announced Yanukovich as the victor of the election:

Tensions rose sharply on Wednesday, November 24, when the Central Election Commission officially confirmed Mr Yanukovich’s victory. Mr Yushchenko responded by urging protesters to blockade public buildings, including the cabinet office and the presidential administration.

With Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, and other mediators due in Kiev for conciliation talks on Friday November 26, the authorities considered using force to clear the blockade surrounding the presidential buildings. About 2,000 anti-riot police were deployed in the area. But, with the mediators urging restraint, the Ukrainian authorities backed off.

The talks on November 26 failed to break the deadlock. The following day, the pro-Yushchenko crowds in Kiev swelled to an estimated 500,000, with smaller demonstrations in some other cities.

The critical moments came on Sunday November 28. Mr Yanukovich’s supporters in eastern Ukraine raised thestakes by making separatist threats.

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.”

Package Deals.

Earlier today, in slightly surprising move after days of gridlock, the Ukrainian Parliament finally approved a package deal of electoral reforms and constitutional changes in a 402-21 vote with 19 abstentions. President Kuchma immediately signed the compromise into law. In addition to the package elements already known, President Kuchma apparently agreed to dismiss the prosecutor general, while the parliament voted in favor of – apparently substancial – devolution measures to break the separatist/irredentist momentum in the East, and the opposition agreed to lift the blockade of government buildings at 6pm CET (via Le Sabot) – also – see Nick’s post below.

While Yuchenko must have come to the conclusion that, despite his recently aggressive rhetoric, a prolonged stand-off would weaken his position in the run-off more than a compromise about the future President’s powers, the Guardian reports that his camp’s support for the agreement is lukewarm at best.

It is unclear right nowto which extent the compromise has popular support – Some of those tired and freezing on the streets may be relieved, yet the IHT mentions that some protesters aren’t happy about the developments and still want to truly change Ukraine’s power structure.

But Yushenko ally Yulia Tymoshenko, the warrior Audrey profiled below, who once portrayed Mr Yushenko as “soft politician”, is unhappy with the compromise – her party accordingly voted against the measure -, speaking of a capitulation, and seems to be considering some kind of legal action against it. The Times Online quotes her saying “[t]his is a victory for Kuchma[, t]his vote helps reduce the powers of a president Yushchenko… [w]e could have won without it.”

In a related legal development, according to Radio Free Europe, ITAR-TASS and dpa report that Interpol temporarily removed the warrant for Yuliya Tymoshenko’s arrest from its official website (http://www.interpol.org) pending further information from the Russian authorities who accused her of bribing Russian military officials (while keeping one for her husband). Interfax reports that Russian prosecutors will keep up their charges against Mrs Tymoshenko.

I’m sure all this can also become part of a package deals.

Spheres of Influence.

The Ukrainian parliament remained deadlocked today with respect to the issue of linking electoral rules and constitutional changes to limit the future President’s powers (Reuters), despite the alleged agreement in yesterday’s round-table talks.

Hoping to be able to avoid the constitutional curtailing of the future President’s powers, Yushchenko’s supporters insisted on two separate votes today. The Kyiv Post quotes Yulia Tymoshenko –

“We won’t vote for any package deals,”

In addition, President Kuchma declared that the Yushenko camp stalled the negotiations by insisting on the government’s dismissal, before making a half-hearted move in that direction. Reuters notes that he issued a decree on Tuesady appointing Finance Minister Mykola Azarov as acting premier, due to Mr Yanukovich’s “decision” to concentrate on campaigning for the run-off election. The Kyiv Post speculates this might be a move indicating Kuchma’s willingness negotiate the opposition’s demand to fire Mr Yanukovich, quoting Mikhail Pogrebinsky, an analyst with supposed close ties to the outgoing President.

“Kuchma … has been slowly taking a step back every day.”

Although the newspaper also notes that, despite increasing lack of political allies, there might be an unexpected legal obstacle to Mr Yanukovich’s removal: apparently Ukrainian law bans the dismissal of presidential candidates from their jobs.

While legal issues are certainly important, they aren’t the only locus of political power in Ukraine these days., in fact, not even the most important. The prosecutor general?s office might threaten Yushchenko with an investigation for treason with respect to his aggressive interview in the British Sunday Telegraph (Maidan), but how much weight does that carry in light of his supporters’ determination to eventually end the deadlock, on way or another (Kyiv Post)

“We have been peaceful so far, [but if Yushchenko wants to force Kuchma to concede defeat] we are ready.”

Meanwhile, the OSCE’s ministerial meeting in Bulgaria saw a clash of Russia and the US over Ukraine, and accordingly failed to even reach the consensus needed for a final declaration (despite reaching agreement on 20 specific, low-profile, proposals). In light of the events in Ukraine, Russia refused OSCE demands to honor pledges to withdraw its troops from Moldova and Georgia. Accordingly, Powell reiterated that the US would not ratify the 1999 treaty about mutually agreed reduction of conventional forces in Europe (CFE), until Russia withdraw its troops from Georgia and Moldova. (AFP)

The Russian foreign minister repeated the Russian dissatisfaction with the OSCE’s role as election monitor. He could not resist to mention the many irregularities in recent American elections, stating that the OSCE was guilty of a double standard.

Trying to put the row into perspective, speaking to AFP, Dmitry Trenin, deputy head of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace’s Moscow office, remarked that Putin

“ha[d] suffered a personal political setback in Ukraine and he is very angry … I do not think this can be a good thing for anybody.”

Mr Tremin interprets yesterday’s angry statement by Mr Putin as a veiled concession of defeat. He may have hoped to be able to reach an agreement with the West, particularly the United States, profoundly misjudging the West’s ability to trade anything in this matter. Mr Trmin blames the current Kremlin’s decision making structure that he claims is “restricted to a narrow circle” for much of the recent Russian lack of geopolitical realism. The Kyiv Post has more thoughts on this matter.

The FT notes that, despite growing concern with respect to Russia’s Democracy, Washington still believes Mr Putin had not yet crossed a red line, understanding – used to President Bush’s often blunt statemtents aimed at a domestic audience – that much of President Putin’s harsh words is not just informed by his personal disappointment and KGB-socialisation, but also by the need to keep Russian conservatives happy by restating their believes about American meddling in allegedly Russian affairs.

Dealing in Kyiv.

It looks like the legal stalemate in Ukraine could be a little closer to a solution. Possibly related to reports about the opposition offering immunity to incumbent President Kuchma in exchange for him no longer trying to factually or legally obstruct the preparations for the repeated presidential run-off election on December 26, at least most of the constitutional and procedural problems which led to parliamentary tensions last Saturday seem to have been resolved in a six hour round table talk with European mediators, including the EU’s Javier Solana and Poland’s President Aleksander Kwasniewski.

While the parties seem to have finally agreed to the dismissal of the current Central Electoral Committee, the abolition of the problematic absentee ballots, extended checks of electoral registers to keep at least most of the dead from voting, and an end to the blockade of government buildings, it is unclear at this point to which extent the issue of pre-electoral constitutional change reducing the powers of the future UkrainianPresident in favor of the parliament has been settled.
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99 Orange Balloons (and then some more…)

99 (and some more) orange balloons are floating over Kyiv today while protesters gathered again peacefully waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision. In the meantime, outgoing President Kuchma met with Russia’s President Putin at a Russian governmental airport near Moscow. There are differing reports about what exactly Putin said with respect to a possible Ukrainian revote – whichever form it may take. Deutsche Welle quotes President Putin saying “a rerun election would not help” while Reuters quotes him with “a repeat of the run-off vote may fail to work.” I suppose his statement was intentionally ambigous – yet according to the statement of President Kuchma (translated by Maidan), it seems, despite yesterdays sort-of-agreement, the Ukrainian administration is still trying to gain time. Here’s (part of) what he allegedly said after the meeting with President Putin:

“The most important thing is that the Supreme Court, as the highest organ, must say if the violation occurred or not. The parliament has adopted a political decision. It is quite right, we must find a political solution.

The next developments seem very simple: Supreme Court’s verdict and the constitutional reform that will allow the parliament to form a government in a few days. In this case the parliament will be responsible for the situation in the country. Then a commission will consider the issue of reelections.”

Quite frankly, reading this one should wonder if there was something wrong with his last Vodka. It becomes more and more apparent that – for all the power the protesters lend to Yushenko – they also significantly narrow down his mandate in negotiations. There is no way the protesters will simply go home and wait for the administration prepare another rigged vote in a couple of months.

The window of opportunity for a peaceful solution is already beginning to close. As important as the rule of law is under normal circumstances, in this case, the rules have run out, and the people (on either side) are vociferously declaring who is Ukraine’s sovereign. Any further administrational attempt to trick them is unlikely to go down well. This may still end like it did in Nena’s song.

99 dreams I have had.

In every one a red balloon.

It’s all over and I’m standing pretty.

In this dust that was a city.

If I could find a souvenier.

Just to prove the world was here.

And here is a red balloon

I think of you and let it go.

UPDATE: (21:56 CET) – Ukraine’s Supreme Court once again adjourned without reaching a decision. Meanwhile, behind the scenes dealing and public positioning in anticipation of the court’s verdict continues, as the rejection of two Yanukovich peititon by the court are interpreted by some opposition members as a very hopeful sign with respect to the overall decision. According to Spiegel Online and Reuters, Ukrainian President Kuchma has conditionally agreed to dismiss Prime Minister Yanukovich, who lost a vote of no confidence in the Ukrainian Parliament yesterday. His offer comes with some strings attached – while cautiously accepting the need for speed (Interfax) with respect to new elections, he still insists on holding a full election, not just the run-off demanded by Yushenko, and his concept of “speedy” still clearly exceeds the time-horizon of the opposition.

The deteriorating economic and budgetary situation in Ukraine may be the central element in the President’s realization that the stand-off cannot be dragged-on until the protesters have frozen – although it is hard to determine to which extent his statements could be considered a threat indicating the increasing economic inevitability to end the protests, one way or another.

As the Ukranian National Bank seems increasingly worried about massive outflows of foreign currency deposits, Interfax mentions that the President met with some members of the current government yesterday explaining that this year’s electoral turmoil had already cost Ukraine dearly –

“Revenues are shrinking in virtually all branches of the economy, partly due to a decline in foreign trade, Kuchma said. “Some regions, for instance Sumy, Zhitomir and Donetsk, in November brought only half of the required amount to the budget. That directly threatens the payment of wages, social benefits and pensions.”

Is this the resolution?

Ten days on, and we may be close to a resolution of the crisis in the Ukraine. There’s definitely been some agreement between Kuchma, Yuschenko, Yanukovich and the mediators (Solana, Adamkus, Kubis and Kwasniewski) but, as ever, the devil is in the details. The basic points seem to be that there will be a revote, there will be constitutional reforms before the vote occurs, protestors will stop blockading government buildings and an all-party working group will implement changes based on the rulings of the Supreme Court.

The questions that remain to be answered though, are:

  • What form will the revote take? The full election, or just the second round? Will new candidates be allowed to stand, and will existing ones be barred from standing? Will more observers be allowed in for the elections, and will Yuschenko’s other requirements, such as limiting absentee ballots, be accepted?
  • What form will the constiutional reforms take? The general opinion seems to be that the Prime Minister and Cabinet will gain powers from the Presidency, but is this to weaken a potential Yuschenko Presidency? And will the reforms address the regional issues?
  • Where do the protestors go now? Blockades are over, but will some remain on the streets to keep the pressure on?
  • Finally, what will the Supreme Court actually rule and when? It seems the election process can’t really begin until its deliberations are completed?
  • As I said, reaction seems to be mixed amongst both the media and the bloggers as to whether this is the end of this stage of the crisis, or whether it still continues. See the Kyiv Post, PA/Scotsman, Le Sabot, Foreign Notes, Notes from Kiev and SCSU Scholars for more.

    In related news, The Argus notes that while the events in Ukraine may have inspired protestors in Tajikstan Uzbekistan, while attention’s been focused elsewhere, Russia is demanding Abkhazia reholds its recent election.

    Finally, I’ve received a report from Tarik Amar, who reported from Ukraine on John Quiggin’s blog last week. He’s been talking to the people in the tent city and you can read the full thing below the fold.
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    Ukraine: Kuchma backs new elections

    Reuters (and the BBC, presumably based on that report) say that outgoing President Kuchma now supports the idea of new elections in Ukraine. However, there’s no word on whether he’s accepted Yuschenko’s full conditions for a revote – no absentee ballots and a new, independent CEC – in his statement.

    Update: It appears he hasn’t accepted the Yuschenko conditions, and the call is for an entirely new election – not just a rerun of the runoff, but the whole electoral process. SCSU Scholars have more:

    My Ukrainian student is listening to news reports and says this is not a real offer, that Kuchma is not only offering to redo the second round but the first as well. This could take 180 days. This is exactly the scenario I thought may happen — Kuchma doesn’t want Yanukovych as much as he wants himself to be president. If he can buy six months, he has found his ideal solution.

    My student also reports Yushchenko has refused this offer and is holding out for the Supreme Court decision.

    Enter The People. Why We Are Wearing Orange.

    It is getting colder in Kyiv, so it may not be too surprising both camps are busy fueling the flames of their conflict. In a country eagerly awaiting its Supreme Court’s decision about the validity of last week’s Presidential election, the second week of popular protests in Kyiev begins with the incumbent president Kuchma’s threat to enforce martial law, and more secessionist motions passed by Eastern regional assemblies/authorities, which, although likely a consequence of oligarchic pressures and thus questionable true popular support, have caught the attention of the Yushenko campaign – as Scott’s post below indicates. In many ways, things could take an ugly turn soon.

    Given the growing awareness that Mr Yushenko is a politician with oligarchic friends of his own, who is making, as the Kyiv Post stated on Saturday, “a multi-faceted attempt to take power”, and not a saint, I think it is appropriate to explain exactly what we want to express by wearing orange these days: orange is, after all, Mr Yushenko’s campaign color. But then, it seems, orange is no longer just his campaign color.

    Former US National Security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski stated last Thursday, in a roundtable discussion, hastily arranged by the American Enterprise Institute, that we witness “the meeting of Ukrainian nationalism with Ukrainian democracy on a popular basis”. Well, nationalism clearly has its role, and not unexpectedly in a country featuring such a motley collection of salient cleavages. Yet for all I hear, I do not get the impression that the nationalism exhibited by the crowds peacefully demonstrating for Yushenko is of divisive, ethnically exclusive nature – while the Yanukovich camp apparently scared ethnic Russian voters in the East. Arguing that the Kuchma administration has talked up ethnic tensions to be able to act as mediator, Tarik Amar writes in a very informative, long primer at John Quiginn’s

    “[c]rucially, even in round one the opposition managed to win all Ukrainian regions in the West as well as the Centre of the country, including ? by a large margin ? the largely Russiophone capital city Kyiv. The government has always liked to pretend that the opposition?s base was restricted to the Ukrainophone West, implying that it was ?nationalist?, even ?separatist.? Some Western observers still cling to these facile stereotypes. It is Yanukovych who has been cornered in a minority of eastern oblasts. If anybody represents an above-regional Ukrainian solidarity, it is clearly Yushchenko. He speaks proper Russian as well as Ukrainian and his being a native of one of Ukraine?s most eastern oblasts and having spent his student and working life in western as well as central Ukraine cannot be matched by Yanukovych, whose biography is strictly mono-regional and whose Ukrainian is not perfect.”

    So I think Mr Brzezinski’s statement is by and large correct about the nature of what’s going on. And while most Ukrainians as well as political analysts will probably have agreed even before last week that this election was a crucial event for Ukraine, I think everyone has been surprised by the hundreds of thousands of people who have turned the election into a plebiscite about the kind of society they want to live in. Let me again quote Tarik Amar –

    Even if some Western minds jaded by overfeeding on ?Civil Society? rhetoric may find it old hat, for Ukraine things are at stake that were achieved in Poland in 1989: essential respect for the law and the sovereign people, pluralism, and, indeed, freedom from fear. Ukraine is facing a choice not between different policies or regions but between mutually exclusive political cultures. Without undue idealization, the opposition stands for a reasonable understanding of rules, laws, and good faith in observing them.

    Wearing orange is – now – essentially about aspiring to a different standard of governance. Yet I am not as certain about the prospects of Ukrainian civil society as Mr Brzezinski, who believes it would survive even a failure of the current stand-off. I am worried by the failed 1953 East-German uprising – it’s (bloody) failure led to widespread decades-long political apathy. Despite all efforts by political activists from inside (and outside) Ukraine, Ukrainian civil society must still be weak. Thus, as every little thing may count, we have decided to display a few additional orange bits to show our support for all those in Kyiv who are aspiring – and freezing.

    One more thing. Over the last few days, some reports have led to not unreasonable suspicions about a renewed confrontation between Russia and “the West” about Ukraine, including some about several Western, particularly American, governmental as well as non-governmental organisations having “meddled” with the Ukrainian elections, particularly by funding grassroots protest-organisations like the student movement PORA.

    Yet “meddling” is a matter of degree – a week before the second round of the elections, the Cato Institute’s Doug Bandow quoted a Russian political consultant with the so-called “Russian club”, Sergei Markov, using the American grassroots support to justify the – far more extensive – Russian involvement in Ukraine –

    “[l]ook at what the U.S. is doing here – supporting foundations, analytical centers, round tables. It’s how contemporary foreign policy is pursued. And it’s exactly what we’re doing.”

    I would never claim that “the West” or any of its constiuent parts would be above the use of electoral manipulation; particularly, in situations where it had a clear idea where it wants to go and what to expect, how to direct, and what to achieve through any political movement.

    Yet, as opposed to Russia, whose motives with respect to Ukraine are clear – if there is one truth about the American and European involvement in Ukraine, I think it would be that there is no strategy, simply because there isn’t a monolithic or even prevailing view of Russia anymore. Absent any real strategy, Western support is likely to have actually achieved what it was supposed to achieve: create process awareness.

    It was the latter that brought the people to the streets, not some handbook of popular opposition, pollsters, political consultants, or stickers paid for with money from Washington or Brussels. And that is one more reason to wear the ribbon.
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    More from Ukraine

    I’m starting a new post for the latest information as the old one was starting to get a bit long. The session in Parliament has broken up as there were 191 deputies there, but 226 (50%+1) were required for a quorum, so no action could be taken. However, the Kyiv Post reports that Yushchenko has taken a ‘symbolic’ oath of office as President:

    After the session ended, Yushchenko swore an oath on a 300-year-old Bible. The Ukrainian constitution, however, stipulates that the president swears allegiance on a copy of the constitution. Lawmakers chanted “Bravo, Mr. President!”

    There’s other interesting information in the story as well, such as how a no confidence vote would also be symbolic rather than binding:

    “All political forces should negotiate and solve the situation without blood,” said parliament speaker Volodymyr Litvyn.

    “The activities of politicians and the government … have divided society and brought people into to the streets,” Litvyn said. “Today there is a danger of activities moving beyond control.”

    A no-confidence vote in parliament would have carried political significance, but it would not have been binding. According to the Ukrainian constitution, a no-confidence vote must be initiated by the president – and outgoing President Leonid Kuchma has staunchly backed Yanukovych.

    Opposition leader and Yushchenko ally Yulia Tymoshenko, wearing an orange ribbon around her neck, called on lawmakers “not to go to into any negotiations” with the government. Instead, Tymoshenko said, they should “announce a new government, a new president, a new Ukraine.”

    However, there are welcome signs that direct confrontations are being avoided:

    Mykola Tomenko, a lawmaker and Yushchenko ally, said some police had joined the opposition, although the claim was impossible to independently verify. One police officer, wearing an orange ribbon in his uniform, ordered a group of police outside a government building to retreat inside, defusing tension between them and Yushchenko supporters.

    Kyiv’s city council and the administrations of four other sizable cities – Lviv, Ternopil, Vinnytsia and Ivano-Frankivsk – have refused to recognize the official results and they back Yushchenko.

    Elsewhere, idiotprogrammer discusses (the lack of) American coverage of what’s going on (though we have now been mentioned on Instapundit).

    Update: BBC News 24 reports (from the AFP wire) that Yushchenko has called on the police and army to come out and support him while miners are threatening to march on Kiev in support of Yanukovich. AFP also reports that Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende – the Netherlands currently holds the EU presidency – has informed Ukrainian President Kuchma that the EU has doubts about the result of the election.

    Update 2: The Periscope has lots of information, including translations of what’s being broadcast on Ukrainian radio right now. They also report that Javier Solana will be addressing the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs tomorrow focusing on events in Ukraine.
    Latest breaking news from the Kyiv Post reports Putin saying that “criticism of the Ukrainian election by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is “inadmissible” because there are no official results.”
    More blogging from Kiev at Le Sabot Post-Moderne.
    Interesting BBC News article on some of the background to the protests. It mentions a Ukrainian student group – Pora – who have connections with Georgia’s Kmara and Serbia’s Otpor movements, both of whom were at the forefront of the protests in their countries that overthrew governments. As several people have noted, Georgian flags are being displayed quite prominently amidst the protests.
    There’s a good Financial Times article on the processes going on behind the scenes:

    Although Mr Kuchma has spent a decade building an authoritarian regime, he has not established complete control – unlike President Vladimir Putin in neighbouring Russia – and it is unclear whether he can assure victory for his prime minister, Viktor Yanukovich.

    In particular, he does not control parliament or the Supreme Court, both of which could play a vital role in determining the victor.

    The core of Mr Kuchma’s power is his dominance of the bureaucracy, law-enforcement and state security structures inherited from Communist times. Even before Mr Putin made similar moves in Russia, Mr Kuchma established presidential control over regional governments and placed close allies to oversee the news on the main state and private television channels. […]

    Critically, the president has failed to establish a reliable majority among parliament’s 450 members. Recently, Volodymyr Lytvyn, the speaker, and more than 30 deputies deserted the pro-presidential bloc, creating a stalemate in which neither Mr Yushchenko nor Mr Kuchma have a majority.

    Mr Kuchma cannot take the support of domestic institutions for granted, especially the Supreme Court, where judges enjoy independence thanks to lifetime appointments. Before the polls, the court acted in Mr Yushchenko’s favour by ordering the Central Election Commission to exclude 41 extra polling stations in Russia for the numerous Ukrainian citizens there amid concerns that they might be used for ballot fraud. After the first round, the court ordered the Central Election Commission to reverse a decision to exclude votes from a pro-Yushchenko district.

    As the widespread allegations of second-round fraud have shown, the government has attempted another challenge to institutions Mr Kuchma does not fully control.

    The authorities successfully ordered and bullied civil servants to co-operate in ballot-stuffing operations – ranging from university professors who applied unfair pressure on students to police officers who were paid to tour polling stations and vote more than once. But the machine did its job too well. The sheer scale of fraud required to swing the official results in Mr Yanukovich’s favour has provoked huge protests and international criticism.

    Update 3: Victor Katolyk’s live reports from Ukraine are in this Periscope thread. BBC News 24 just had live pictures from outside the Presidential offices where police are present in full riot gear and standing about 10-15 deep, completely blocking access to what appeared to be a large crowd of protestors. However, despite all that, things still seemed peaceful – the crowd was quite orderly and there was a gap between them and the police, with no signs of imminent trouble. At times like this, though, it only takes one hothead to spark a flame.
    There’s a brief post on Siberian Light that makes an interesting couple of points:

    * Putin seems to have made a major error of judgement in backing Mr Yanukovych. If the election result is overturned, he will have made an enemy of Yushchenko.
    * And if Yushchenko does win the Presidency he won’t have such a strong mandate from the people as Saakashvilli did in Georgia’s Rose Revolution (which, by the way, is celebrating its 1st anniversary today). Even if the election had been free and fair, I doubt Yushchenko would have won by more than a few points. There are deep East-West divisions in Ukraine which have bubbled to the surface this week. They won’t just go away.

    BBC News reports that Yushchenko has asked former Polish President Walesa to mediate in the crisis. Walesa is reported as saying he will if Ukrainian President Kuchma asks him to.
    Update 4: Right, one last set of updates then I need to get some sleep. Things seem to have quietened down now – it’s 2am in Ukraine right now (for reference, it’s GMT+2, CET+1, EST+7). Victor has continued to updates at The Periscope– the general trend seems to be reports of public and international support for Yuschenko, coupled with rumours of potential trouble from forces allied with Yanukovich tomorrow. There’s nothing we can do but sit and wait to see how those pan out.
    Yuschenko’s website in English (click on ‘ENG’ at the top of the screen) has lots of news, including a story that Mikhail Gorbachev has backed Yushchenko.
    Interesting posts from
    Daniel Brett and Coming Anarchy.
    There are many reports of international demonstrations and protests for Yushchenko tomorrow – I’ll add those to the thread above.
    Two more sites gathering and reporting news from Ukraine in English – Maidan and Brama.