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.
Continue reading

Ukraine roundup

I’ve just got time for a quick roundup of the latest developments in Ukraine.

First, and most importantly, the Supreme Court has suspended publication of the election result while it considers the case brought to it by Yuschenko. This is probably more routine than a sign of any clear intent on the part of the Court, but it does indicate that they’re taking the complaint seriously and are not dismissing it out of hand, as happened with a case Yuschenko brought earlier in the week, I believe.

Also, according to The Periscope, Kazakhstan, China, and Armenia have recognized Yanukovych – probably unaware of the Supreme Court decision to not decide today.

Second, the EU/Russia summit took place today, though there doesn’t seem to be anything concrete coming out of that yet. The official report from the summit is here (pdf file) and it’s more interesting in what it doesn’t say about Ukraine. Note that almost every other issue mentions refers to the EU and Russia jointly agreeing whereas Ukraine was merely the subject of an ‘exchange of views’. I think we have to wait for a statement from Solana (or possibly Barroso or Balkenende) to find out more. On the same note, Solana’s address to the Foreign Relations Committee yesterday can be foung here (also a pdf)

The situation in Ukraine itself appears to be developing into a standoff – Victor and friends keep posting at The Periscope and it seems to be following the same pattern as the last couple of days – rumours of movements of troops and miners, coupled with announcements of official support for Yuschenko from various locations. The latest news is that the Deputy Economy Minister has resigned and said he is ‘with the people’ and rumours are that Yanukovich is trying to make sure he has the loyalty of the rest of the Cabinet, particularly energy ministers. Maidan continues to post reports of military commanders stating they are with Yuschenko.

The protest in Independence Square continues, of course, while strikes are taking place across the country in support of Yuschenko.

There are also reports that Lech Walesa has tried to negotiate, but hasn’t achieved anything. He’s supposed to be holding a press conference around now, but there are no reports yet.

Via Harry, PORA now have an online petition up which they’re asking people to sign.

And quickly around the blogs – something new from Neeka, Le Sabot has photos and background.

Update: (Tobias 18:11 CET) One more night to come up with a solution. In other good news, after having been approached by numerous government officials as well as cnocerned citizens, lieutenant-general Mykhaylo Kutsyn, officer in chief of the Western Operational Command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces stated that ?[his] actions are directed towards unquestioning fulfillment of the law and Constitution of Ukraine and [he] officially declare[d] that divisions of the Western Operational Command will not fight their own people.?

That is certainly good news. Although I am not at all familiar with the Ukrainian military organization – I assume, given the East-West cleavage, it would be important to get a similar stament from the other Operational Commanders. (via Maidan.net)

Update: (Tobias, 19:24 CET) Jamie of bloodandtreasure has a useful link to a Ukrainian military guide at globalsecurity.org.
Apparently, Ukraine has three regional military commands, Western, Northern, and Southern (see this map). Kyev is situated in the Northern military command.

Update: (Tobias, 21:17 CET) The showdown may have begun. Victor Katolyk reports that, following a “declaration of truth” by several hundred Ukrainian television employees, several tv stations have begun broadcasting “real” news. While several hundred Policemen appear to have pledged allegiance to the people, and former Deputy Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko apparently declared the beginning of a seige of Presidential Administration, Cabinet of Ministers, and the Parliament, there are also reports of pressure on Supreme Courst judges and their families to rule in favor of Mr Yanukovich.

While Russian President Putin, speaking at the EU-Russian summit in The Hague, remained firm that the victory of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich was “absolutely clear”, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende finally clearly rejected the results as forged: “The election did not meet the international standards. Therefore the EU is not able to accept the result.” Maidan.net reports that the European Parliament will hold an emergency session devoted entirely to the situation in Ukraine next week.

It could become a serious problem that President Putin has gone further than even the Ukrainian administration in “ruling out” any kind of negotiation and accusing the West of stirring violence in Kyev. Moreover, for the moment, Russia seems not concerned about developing an exit strategy, but is fueling the flames – according to EUbusiness.com, “the president of the foreign affairs committee of the State Duma lower house of parliament, Konstantin Kossachev, also made clear on Thursday it was time for Russia to defend its territory, after a period of letting the West ‘back such or such a leader of such or such a country of the post-Soviet space, as long as they were pro-Western and therefore anti-Russian'”.

Such an official statement about Ukraine being Russian property will likely be counterproductive should it become widely known in Ukraine.

Update: (Tobias, 22:33 CET) The FT wonders if Ukrainian Oligarchs, who have supported Yanukovich and clearly stood to gain from his victory, are now beginning to think about hedging their bets.

Most remain wedded to Mr Yanukovich, especially the barons of his political heartlands in the industrialised Donetsk region. But a few are beginning to wonder whether Mr Yanukovich still offers the best protection for their interests.

Many are also coming under pressure from employees who are openly supporting Mr Yushchenko – putting up posters in factories and workplaces and taking time off for demonstrations.

Update: (Nick 0005 CET) The Times has a map showing the breakdown of the votes in the elections

Ukraine, developing…

Update: (Nick – 1730CET) The official announcement has been made, declaring Yanukovich the victor. More ASAP when I’ve rounded up the reactions.

Maidan are reporting preparations for a state of emergency are being made at Yanukovich headquarters. Victor reports official results are 49.5% to Yanukovich, 45.5% to Yeschenko, though he already has reports of fraud. At the moment, I’m crossing fingers and everything else and hoping. Kwasniewkski and a Dutch representative (I don’t know who) are still reported to be on their way to Kiev.

The IHT reports the Ukrainian defence minister telling the Army to ‘remain calm’. Two members of the Election Commission refused to endorse the result. The Periscope’s latest update includes details of actions being considered by the European Commission and Parliament and Schroeder has talked with Putin urging that the situation be resolved lawfully (translated out of diplomatese, that would seem to mean ‘don’t do anything with your troops, Vladimir’)

Neeka has a new post on the Elections Commission meeting.

Update: (David.)

Hopeful news (for real)

NYT reports:

Shortly after his rival’s offer, Yanukovich also hinted at compromise by saying that he was not interested in a “fictitious” victory and that “no position of authority, no matter how important, is worth a single human life.”

Yushchenko’s comments provided outgoing President Leonid Kuchma with a way to defuse a crisis that has convulsed the ex-Soviet state of 47 million after it became obvious early on Monday that Yanukovich would be declared the winner.

Update: (David.) I just made a highly embarrasing goof. I thought a ten days old report was new. Ignore my last (deleted) post.

Update: (Nick) I don’t want to draw too many conclusions, as I’ve not quite sure the evidence supports them, but the Kyiv Post reports that Yuschenko has called on soldiers and police to defy orders to take action against the people and Maidan – who earlier reported that Ukrainian special forces were willing to intervene on the side of the protestors – are reporting that the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Marine Forces has acknowledged Yuschenko as President. Pure conjecture here, but I have a feeling that the reports of Russian troops being deployed within Ukraine has backfired and driven the armed forces into the opposition camp, as they don’t want to end up in a position where they’re firing on their own people.

5 pm CET:

Maidan claims that Today the President of Poland Kwasnewski arrives as representative of EU to Ukraine. and that Maidan receives more and more confirmation about presence of Russian troops in Ukraine.

Russia refuses to confirm or deny its troops’ presence.

Europe stepped up pressure on Ukraine officials Wednesday to review the results of the disputed presidential poll, following a similar statement of support from the White House. Meanwhile, Russian authorities continued to support Ukraine officials.

Still nothing from the electoral commisssion, which was supposed to announce the final results two hours ago.

Update:

Nov. 24 (Bloomberg) — Ukraine’s Viktor Yushchenko, who accuses the government of rigging the Nov. 21 presidential elections, said he would agree to holding another second-round vote if the government is willing.

(Original post starts here)

There have been reports (Maidan, Scott Clark, Periscope commenters) that Russian Spetnaz are in Ukraine. Now, via Nosemonkey Maidan says: Ukranian special police will defend the people if Russian troops attack

Worst case scenario is dire indeed.

Prelude to crackdown? Postmodernclog.com wrrote two hour ago:

Authorities have begun violent action against peaceful protesters near the Presidential Admin building. 2 buses of special ops police units drove up and have moved on the demonstrators.

The periscope commenters reports

According to Korrespondent.net, Lviv Regional Council dismissed its Head and elected an Executive Committee, headed by the opposition MP Petro Oliynyk. Oliynyk sworn the oath to the People’s President Yuschenko.
This has been the third Oblast Council to acknowledge Yuchenko’s victory, along with Volyn and Ivano-Frankivsk oblasts.
A number of city councils also either expressed support for Yuschenko or claimed the results of the second round of elections invalid, among them Kyiv, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Vinnytsya, Ternopil, Stryi, Sambor, Khmelnytsk, Lutsk, Chernivtsi, Zhytomyr.
Some of the Eastern oblasts, on the other hand, issued statements claiming Yanukovich the elected President: Kharkiv (despite numerous pro-Yuschenko demonstrations), Odessa and Donetsk.

They also have a transcript of Yushchenko’s speech in Independence Square.

Blogs reporting from the ground: Scott Clark, Neeka, Victor Katolyk (in comments), Postmodern Clog.

Other blogs covering Ukraine: Europhobia, Voldmyr Campaign, Tulip Girl

Ukrainian news sites: Brama, Maidan, the Pora campaign..

Ukranian update

It was another quiet night in Ukraine with, thankfully, all the rumours of a crackdown by security forces not coming true. Neeka has a couple of posts on what happened overnight. She also points out, that amidst everything else going on, Dynamo Kiev played at home in the Champions League last night, and won 2-0. Victor Katolyk has continued to report through what’s been a quiet night.
BBC News reports that President Kuchma has offered talks to the opposition who will respond at around 10am Ukrainian time. The Kyiv Post, however, reports that Yulia Tymoshenko – who the BBC reports as saying Yuschenko will respond by 0am – has turned down the offer. I guess we have to wait and see on this one. The picture on their front page gives an idea of the size of the crowd.
Elsewhere, the Denver Post has reports from former US Congressman Bob Schaffer who “went to Ukraine to monitor an election but found himself watching a revolution.”
Brama and Maidan have continued to update overnight.
Following up on something Victor has mentioned, the Guardian reports that four newsreaders have walked out of Channel 1+1 in protest about censorship which is why that station hasn’t been showing any news – there’s no one there to report it! They also report (via the IFJ) that journalists at Inter and UT1 have walked out.
The BBC has a link to the Yanukovych campaign website but it appears to be down at the present time.
Tulip Girl lists the turnout at protests throught Ukraine.

Update: Europhobia starts a new post to cover today’s developments. Victor is now joined by friends to cover the latest events over at The Periscope. The official election result is expected to be announced at around 1400GMT (4pm Ukrainian time) – that looks like the key time to wait for today. There seem to be protests spiringing up all over the country right now.
There’s a new blog for the Voldmyr Campaign, it’s London-based and compiling information about what’s going on in Ukraine right now.
Javier Solana addressed the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee this morning and has warned of the possibility of violence. Following on from NATO last night, the Parliament has cummoned the Ukrainian Ambassador “to defend the conduct of the disputed presidential election in his homeland.”
The PORA campaign has an English-language website.

Update 2: The morning has continued with no major developments, though the crowds remaining in Kiev are still huge. The main currency appears to be rumours as people wait for the official announcement of the result at 4pm Ukraine time (2pm GMT, 3PM CET, 9am EST)
It’s not in English, but there appears to be a lot of information flowing through this Livejournal community. (By the way, Fistful is available as an LJ feed here)
BBC News reports that the European Commission has requested that the declaration of the result be declared delayed – (typo, not the Commission changing its mind). From what I understand, should Yanukovich be declared the winner then, he becomes President straightaway. Reports at The Periscope indicate that that’s when the crackdown by security forces will begin.
Another Kiev-based blog – Foreign Notes.
Reuters report the statement from the European Commission, including what sounds like quite a strong statement from Barroso:

“We have asked for the procedures and the results to be reviewed … and we are urging our Ukrainian partners to resist announcing final results before that review has taken place.” Emma Udwin, a spokeswoman for the EU’s executive Commission, told a daily news briefing.

New Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso called for restraint in Ukraine and said there would be consequences for EU relations with Kiev “if there is not a serious, objective review of the election results”.

Le Sabot Post-Moderne is working for Maidan, and has a report on the latest developments. Maidan itself reports that government buildings in Kiev are being evacuated.

Update (by Tobias): Crisis Fallout: Le Figaro reports mounting EU-Russian tensions just one day before a scheduled summit in The Hague. While Ukraine was not originally on the summit’s agenda, the ongoing events are likely to change that.

According to the newspaper, the Russian government now accuses the EU that by asking for a recount (which it did not do as such as such, the Dutch presidency simply expressed “doubts” aobut the election) it was “encouraging the Ukrainian opposition to take violent and illegal steps”. EUPolitix.com cites President Putin, who allegedly said ?Ukraine is a great state with a mature democratic system. There is no need to teach it democracy” (much more reading in their )