Into the weekend

As the Ukrainian crisis heads into its sixth day, time for another roundup.

First, I’ve found another Ukrainian news portal in English – Ukraine Now – which is covering other news out of the country as well as the crisis. On the blogs, Le Sabot has more photos and continues his fascinating background series on the election. There are several new posts on Foreign Notes, including an interesting analysis of Putin’s motives. Lobowalk has lots of stuff as well, including a story that reminded me of the opening pages of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy as police take a break because the protestors promise not to do anything while they’re away. Crooked Timber’s John Quiggin has an interesting article and more background by academic Tarik Ari. Meanwhile, Neeka’s up and has a photo of an amiable discussion between two men from different sides.

Neeka does mention trouble in Kharkiv, and it does seem that things aren’t quite as peaceful in other parts of the country – though there don’t seem to be any serious problems yet. The Financial Times reports that tear gas was used – once – in Chernihiv, while Maidan has reports of rising tempers in Kharkiv.

Scanning headlines in Google News, there appears to be no consensus amongst reporters as to the effect of yesterday’s talks. Some stress the importance of both candidates urging their supporters to reject violence, while others worry that the lack of agreement heralds the beginnings of a descent into chaos. I’m – as I have been for most of the week – in the optimist camp on this one, as I think what’s most important is that they’ve agreed to continue talking as a task force, even if nothing much else was agreed. Both sides are still waiting for the Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday before committing to anything, I think, though of course the Parliament could have an impact before then.

More thoughts from me below the fold.
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Ukraine on your doorstep

One thing Victor Katolyk has said in his reports from Kiev that I’ve heard echoed elsewhere is that there have been protests – mainly by the Ukrainian diaspora – at Ukrainian embassies and consulates around the world. So, I wanted to ask the readers of AFOE to participate in a bit of interactive newsgathering. Here’s a list of Ukrainian embassies worldwide and I’d like to ask those of you who live in or near to capital cities to let us and the world know of any protests or demonstrations that have happened or are going on there either today or tomorrow. I’ll do my best to collate the information and link to anyone who has reports, so spread the word and we’ll see what we can achieve!

Update: Before I go to bed, here’s what we have already – and thanks to everyone for their help so far!

Several hundred march in Warsaw (link in Polish), several demonstrations for tomorrow listed on Maidan, including The Hague, Buffalo, NY and several other locations across the US and Canada. Yushchenko’s website reports on protest in Rome and rally in London. Viktor also passes on reports of a demonstration planned in Paris tomorrow.

Wednesday morning update: There are details of protests today in New York and Washington in the comments. Maidan are publicising protests, rallies and demonstrations all over the world. They also report that 5000 people gathered in Toronto and that there are continuing protests in Rome. Brama have pictures of a protest in New York including a rally outside the UN building. This Is London reports on 1500 people protesting outside the Ukrainian Embassy in the UK.

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.

The Orange Revolution?

Just a quick update on events in Ukraine today. Mass protests are still taking place in Kiev and Lviv, and the rumoured crackdown by security forces on protestors during the night didn’t take place. Yushchenko has asked the protestors in Kiev to march to Ukraine’s Parliament which is debating the elections. I can’t read it, but the Parliament’s website is here. Wikipedia’s page on the election is being updated frequently, and also has a map showing the quite stark east/west divide between Yushchenko and Yanukovich.

If you know of any more information please add it into the comments, or mail us, and we’ll update this post as the day goes on.

Update (by Tobias, 14:10 CET):It seems that, seeing the wave of protests in Kiev, the international coverage and criticism of the election Ukrainian presidential results is getting more vociferous – and a little hopeful.

According to the BBC’s Helen Fawkes, the opposition’s main objective now is to have the Ukrainian “parliament to pass a vote of no-confidence in the central electoral commission and to refuse to recognise the result of the ballot.”

In marked – albeit widely expected – difference to the Russian election observers – who declared the voting “transparent, legitimate and free,” according to CNN/Interfax – both OSCE and US observers are united in their assessment of a rigged election – including not too unreasonable claims by Mr Yushchenko, about having been poisened.

Senator Richard Lugar, the US’ official observer, summarized the feelings of the people on Kiev’s streets: It was “concerted and forceful” fraud.

According to CNN, all EU countries have now summoned the Ukranian ambassadors. AP reports that German Foreign Minister Fischer has demanded a recount and expressed his hopes for a peaceful resolution of the current situation.

And as Nick indicated above, so far, no violent suppression of the protests has occured, despite reports about “the road leading to parliament turned into a river of orange – the campaign colour of Mr Yushchenko” (BBC) and claims by security forces to crack down on any “lawlessness”.

Even though this live feed (via the TulipGirl) showing Kiev’s main square doesn’t show 100,000 people at the moment, Ukrainian Journalist/Blogger Veronica Khoklova is right to claim in her blog that

Something IS going on there, definitely.

Update 2: (By Doug Merrill) Germany’s leaders, both government and opposition, are calling for a recount in Ukraine’s election. Foreign minister Fischer has called in the Ukrainian ambassador to express his views directly.

Various media (Spiegel Online, Polish television, though not yet BBC or CNN) are reporting that Yuschenko’s supporters are forming up to march on Parliament. Poland’s largest newspaper has splashed the Yushchenko rally across its entire front page, and the online article begins roughly, “The night was peaceful – what will the day bring?”

One of the most widely circulated pictures of Yushchenko shows him holding up a rose — the symbol of the Georgian revolution. Reports are of up to 200,000 people in the main square to support Yushchenko.

Some significant things have not happened. A feared crackdown and clearing of the square at 3am last night did not take place. There are not reports of mass public support for Yanukovych in his strongholds. The rally in Kiev has not turned violent. Police and armed forced appear to be staying neutral. While these are only signs, they are good signs.

Update 3: (Nick) A few links: Photos from Blog de Cannard, links on einsordenull, the Kyiv Post is a Ukrainian newspaper in English, Europhobia keeps finding more links and Neeka has some news on what’s happening in the Parliament as they discuss it. Reports (such as this one from the BBC as well as Neeka) suggest that Yushcehnko’s supporters have turned up to to Parliament but Yanukovich’s supporters and the Communists are staying away, meaning that there are insufficient members there to pass a motion of no confidence in the election commission.