All eyes on Ukraine


Ukraine is in crisis following the presidential election runoff. Reform candidate Viktor Yushchenko is believed to have won the election, but election officials have proclaimed Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych the winner. Yanukovych is backed by the political establishment and the Russian government. There are reports of voter fraud, particularly in eastern Ukraine, which has a higher concentration of ethnic Russians. When I say voter fraud, I don't mean vacant lots voting, but soldiers shooting election officials or stealing ballot boxes. Not to mention pre-election intimidation -- shutting down opposition newspapers and TV stations, replacing election officials with allies of the government, poisoning Yuschenko.

There are pro-reform demonstrations all over Ukraine, perhaps a million people on the streets in Kyiv, the capital. There are reports that Russian special forces (spetznaz) flew into the airport and are in the city.

The situation reminds me a lot of the Philippine "snap election" of 1986, in which long-time President Ferdinand Marcos attempted to cheat Corazon Aquino out of her election victory. Clerks at the central election office walked out to protest fraud, and people took to the streets in support of two military leaders who turned against Marcos.

TulipGirl is there in Kyiv and has links to news reports and commentary. Here's a link to her most recent entry, about reports of a $21.6 million bribe paid to the head of the Central Elections Committee. Start there and work your way back.

Her husband, Discoshaman, has been out on the streets with the protesters. He's just posted the first in a series of entries to try to explain to the rest of the world what this conflict is all about. A couple of excerpts:

You have to understand the situation in Ukraine. The country is run by a series of oligarchic clans that actually found their beginnings in the Soviet Union, and then grew fabulously rich during the early days of "privatization". ...

Do you start to see how life works here? This isn't about a few stolen votes. It's about an entire system of fine control over the political, social and economic life of the people. Economics and politics are incestuously fused here in a way that is difficult to imagine for those in the West.

The BBC has a Q&A piece up with the basic facts of the election crisis.

Keep praying for Ukraine.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 24, 2004 10:13 PM.

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