Ukrainian Disappointment..

While everyone is focused on the French elections, the Balkans, or the contreaty relaunch (in increasing order of wonkishness), it’s not going too well in the Ukraine. Back in the winter of 2004, you couldn’t move for bloggers taking sides on the Orange Revolution, but hardly anyone has noticed the progressive disappointment since.

Well, all revolutions end up eating their children, they say. But I think it’s fair to say that this one at least turned the country in a less Putin-like direction, and after all, past revolutions here have actually ended up with people eating *their* children. Recently, though, there’s been a political murder – one of Yanukovich’s backers from last time was assassinated by a sniper – and the Associated Press can no longer tell President Yuschenko from Prime Minister Yanukovich.

So, the crowds are out again, as are the tents…with the same leaders as before. Indispensable as ever, Veronica Khoklova reports, with video.

In a sense, I suppose it’s the aim of the European project these days – to shift away from snipers towards tents and blogs as a means of resolving political conflict, and in the fullness of time, to falling turnout and general apathy. Hooray! Not that there’s very much wrong with that. People who complain about the hegemony of liberal order rarely concede that it’s unlikely to kill you.

But there’s the rub. As Leszek Kolakowski put it:

The trouble with the social democratic idea is that it does not stock and does not sell any of the exciting ideological commodities which various totalitarian movements – Communist, Fascist or Leftist – offer dream-hungry youth. It is no ultimate solution for all human miseries and misfortunes. It has no prescription for the total salvation of mankind, it cannot promise the fireworks of the last revolution to settle definitely all conflicts and struggles. It has invented no miraculous devices to bring about the perfect unity of man and universal brotherhood. It believes in no easy victory over evil.

It requires, in addition to commitment to a number of basic values, hard knowledge and rational calculation, since we need to be aware of and investigate as exactly as possible the historical and economic conditions in which these values are to be implemented. It is an obstinate will to erode by inches the conditions which produce avoidable suffering, oppression, hunger, wars, racial and national hatred, insatiable greed and vindictive envy.

You could say much the same about the EU, with the rider that too many people think pretending to be the fireworks, etc, will bring in the dream-hungry youth its grinding seriousness tends to alienate. Which is, I think, what I was drivelling about in this Crooked Timber thread.

Soj on Transdniestr

European Tribune – Putting the Squeeze on Transdniestr by Soj

I see that the western press is almost completely ignoring the developing situation in Transdniestr, despite the huge ramifications involved.
[…]
With the election of Viktor Yushchenko in early 2005, Ukraine has steadily allied itself with the west, including the United States. And the west believes that Russia is illegally maintaining military bases in three autonomies in Europe, including Transdniestr, which is the primary stumbling block towards the signing and ratification of the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty. To put it bluntly, the west wants Transdniestr to do what Adjara did in 2004 (in Georgia), which is acquiesce to Moldovan central government, perhaps in the form of some lind of limited autonomy in a federation.

This issue shifted last week when Moldova and Ukraine implemented new customs regulations, requiring all Transdniestr goods (that are being exported) to carry a Moldovan tax stamp. In other words, Transdniestr must pay taxes to Moldova to export its goods, which of course angered the Transdniestrians. At first Igor Smirnov believed that Ukrainian president Yushchenko must be “poorly informed” on the new regulations, implying Yushchenko would never implement them if “only he knew” about them.

Orange, Yes, But Which One?*

When we last looked in, Viktor Yushchenko had been inaugurated, Viktor Yanukovych had grudgingly conceded, and orange was the color for all would-be world-changers.

Unfortunately, while we weren’t looking, Ukraine’s cabinet was collapsing into in-fighting and neglecting to do the things that people put them in office for. On the positive side, an investigation into the Gongadze affair was making, you’ll pardon the word, headway.
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An Orange President.

While the official results of yesterday’s re-run Presidential election will likely not be announced for a couple of days, opposition candidate Viktor Yushshenko looks certain to win this time – if the country’s Central Election Commission has been doing a better job than in November. The BBC has calculated that he has “an unassailable lead” over his opponent. The numbers currently available on the election commission’s website do not indicate any self-evident fraudulent activities (thanks to Jonathan Edelstein for the link), and some of the 12,000 election observers were quick to assert that – while there may have been some fraud – this election was very likely sufficiently legal.

Despite their limited credibility among Janukovich supporters, the international observers’ verdict will carry an enormous weight with respect to a possible legal challenge of certain results already announced by Mr Yanukovich. It is unclear what his options are. Outgoing President Kutchma, a former ally, now hopes that Mr Yanukovich will concede the election after a reasonably short period of face saving legal efforts, the BBC reports.

If the orange celebrations on Kyiv’s independence square following Mr Yushshenko’s claim of victory last night are any indication, Kyiv’s center might well remain an orange bastion until Mr Yushshenko will have eventually been sworn in as President.

It might be cold, but Kyiv is likely the place to go for great new year’s festivities this year…

Re-run Run-up.

Speaking to reporters during the Russian-German governmental consultations, Russian President Putin confirmed that he will respect the result of the – less manipulated – re-run of the Ukrainian Presidential election next Sunday.

“I know Mr Yushchenko as I do the current Prime Minister Mr Yanukovich … He has also been a member of President (Leonid) Kuchma’s team, like Yanukovich, and so I don’t see any problem.”

Mr Putin also dismissed interpretations of the event that suggest he has been dealt a personal defeat. Not that anybody expected anything else, but I suppose hearing this will prevent some more people in Ukraine from playing electoral games this time.

Meanwhile, on Monday night Ukrainians could witness a tv debate with a kafkaesquely transformed Yanukovich. His increasing political isolation apparently became most evident when he, who had earlier accused his opponent, Mr Yushenko, of being an American puppet, suggested that the “Orange Revolution” was staged by the incumbent President Kuchma, with the knowledge of the opposition’s leader, in order to prevent him from opposing the Oligarchic system.

Mr Yanukovich, who had very recently supported secessionist sentiments in Eastern Ukraine, now sent his campaign staff to explain that it would be still unceratain if Yanukovich supporters would tolerate a Yushenko victory on the 26th, while he attempted to present himself as savior of national unity with an offer to create a government of “national unity”, and even asked for to be forgiven for insulting the Orange Protesters.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine (German) and the Kyiv Post have more, also on the poisoning of Mr Yushenko.

“The second highest level ever recorded in humans”

More information about the poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko is coming out as the doctors analyse the samples more, and what’s being found out is frankly scary:

Tests have revealed that the chemical used to poison Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko was pure TCDD, the most harmful known dioxin.
TCDD is a key ingredient in Agent Orange – a herbicide used by US troops in the Vietnam war and blamed for serious health problems.
[…]
Blood samples taken in Vienna, where Mr Yushchenko was treated, were sent to the Dutch capital, Amsterdam, for further analysis.

“It is a single chemical, not a mix,” Prof Abraham Brouwer of the Free University in Amsterdam told the Associated Press.

“This tells us… there is no way it occurred naturally because it is so pure.”

He said there were some small signs which could reveal where it was made.

Initial tests had shown the level of poison in Mr Yushchenko’s blood was more than 6,000 times higher than normal – the second highest level ever recorded in humans.

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.”

Doctors: Yuschenko was poisoned

Via the BBC:

Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko’s mystery illness was caused by poisoning, his Vienna doctors say.

The doctors said extensive tests showed a form of dioxin had been used, leaving Mr Yushchenko’s face disfigured.

They described the poisoning as serious and said that if left untreated it could have killed him.
[…]
“There is no doubt about the fact that the disease has been caused by a case of poisoning by dioxin,” Michael Zimpfer, the head doctor of the Rudolfinerhaus clinic where Mr Yushchenko is undergoing treatment, said.

“There were high concentrations of dioxin, most likely orally administered.”
[…]
Mr Yushchenko’s blood and tissue registered concentrations of dioxin 1,000 times above normal levels.

There appeared to be little lasting damage to Mr Yushchenko’s internal organs, though experts say it could take more than two years for his skin to return to normal.

Interfax reports that the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office has reopened its investigation into the poisoning.

Doctors DO NOT confirm poisoning!

UPDATE: This is getting stranger by the hour. According to the AP,

“the director of the Austrian hospital said the cause of the illness that left Yushchenko’s face pockmarked is still not known, rejecting a report that doctors had come to a conclusion that the presidential candidate was poisoned.

Zimpfer rejected as “entirely untrue” a story in Wednesday editions of the London daily, The Times, which quoted Dr. Nikolai Korpan — the Rudolfinerhaus physician who oversaw Yushchenko’s treatment — as saying that the candidate had been poisoned and the intention was to kill the candidate. Korpan also was quoted as denying making the remarks. “The suspicion of poisoning has until now neither been confirmed or excluded,” Korpan said, according to the Austria Press Agency. He could not be reached for further comment.

EARLIER REPORT: The Times Online reports (via Instapundit) –

Medical experts have confirmed that Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine’s opposition leader, was poisoned in an attempt on his life during election campaigning, the doctor who supervised his treatment at an Austrian clinic said yesterday.

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The Warrior Audrey.


Yulia Tymoshenko
2004 may be well the year of Ukraine’s warrior princesses. First, singer Ruslana managed to put Ukraine on Europe’s musical map by winning the Eurovision song contest with her Wild Dances in May, and now, in early December, it doesn’t seem unlikely that the other warrior princess, Yulia Tymoshenko, one of the most mysterious political figures in Ukraine, will become Prime Minister.

The Guardian’s Nick Paton Walsh claims that, “while for the time being she is proving a great and popular rebel leader, no one really knows what she stands for,” and, on Neeka’s Backlog, Veronica Khokhlova confirms The Economist’s warning (via The Independent) that, “though she may look like Audrey Hepburn, anyone who has got this far in a country where politics often resembles a Jacobean revenge tragedy must have an edge” by wrinting about Mrs Tymoshenko that

“she’s an awesome politician – full of dignity, full of class, soft yet has some very deadly poison hidden underneath, very convincing when she speaks, prepared wonderfully to any kinds of questions, be it about the opposition’s plans, her own finances or her alleged radicalism. She’s beautiful, too, but her looks are as much of an asset as they are not.

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