I’m certainly not convinced that Yushchenko is a saint – he is, after all, effectively calling on his supporters to revolt and it is they, not he, who will bear the brunt of any violent attacks (although since Colin Powell’s intervention this seems less likely). He certainly seems better than ex-con Yanukovych from where I’m sitting, but then again he would – he’s pro-EU and pro-American, whereas Yanukovych leans towards Putin and Russia. And it should also be noted that Yanukovych has kept a commendably low profile over the last couple of days – unlike the rabble-rousing Yushchenko.
More perspective is needed on this. Perhaps the meeting between the new European Commission President Josï¿½ Manuel Barroso and President Putin tomorrow may help calm things down further, and find a mutually-acceptable solution. The EU and Russia should be able to work this out without any direct US involvement.
For now, unless someone does something stupid during the night, the situation seems calm.
(And by the way, if the person who commented – or anyone else – wants to provide any more translations of different viewpoints, please do – either as comments or via email – nosemonkey (AT) gmail (DOT) com)
8:40pm: Victor Katolyk is continuing his updates from Kiev at The Periscope, but in a new post.
A few more thoughts: Yushchenko is pro-Western; he and his people WANT to appeal to us. His opponent is pro-Russian, and has no interest in appealing to us. Western-leaning news sources from Ukraine are more likely to provide English translations. We are (largely) having to rely on these English-language Ukranian news sources – especially Maidan which, as I noted earlier, is explicitly behind Yushchenko.
Ukraine’s election has already been compared to the US election elsewhere, but the parallels run deeper than the closeness of the vote. Again, the world (this time including the US) is backing the candidate who appeals most to them, but who appears to have lost by a small margin. We are taking comfort in allegations of vote-rigging with the Ukranian election just as Kerry-supporters did with the American election.
But, to be fair on the US, vote-rigging seems far more prevalent in Ukraine, and the reports of Yanukovych’s hired goons and Russian troops hiding in the woods make him seem rather more dodgy than Karl Rove.
Nonetheless, even if the vote is re-run it is very likely that half the population would be mightily pissed off with a Yushchenko presidency, and the situation could again deteriorate. Ukraine has only been independent for a few years; its population is split 50:50 between those who want closer ties to Russia, and those who lean towards the West. There is a sense of national pride, and of national identity, but perhaps it might be better off as two nations? And, most importantly, can this be achieved without bloodshed?
9:25pm: A Fistful of Euros has a transcript of Colin Powell’s full comments. His words sound strangely familiar – here are a few highlights:
“Indeed, this is a critical moment. It is time for Ukrainian leaders to decide whether they are on the side of democracy or not, whether they respect the will of the people or not. If the Ukrainian Government does not act immediately and responsibly, there will be consequences for our relationship for Ukraineï¿½s hopes for Euro-Atlantic integration and for individuals responsible for perpetrating fraud…
We have been following developments very closely and are deeply disturbed by the extensive and credible reports of fraud in the election. We call for a full review of the conduct of the election and the tallying of election results.
During the election campaign, the Ukrainian authorities at the highest level repeatedly sent a message about the importance of free and fair elections. We deeply regret that they did not take the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to democracy and to be a model for the region and the world. It is still not too late for Ukrainian authorities to find a solution that respects the will of the Ukrainian people.”
But what IS that solution when the country is split so evenly between the two candidates?
Still, it looks like the EU/US relationship could be revived after the splits over Iraq:
“this morning I have spoken with EU Commission Chairman Barosso and with High Representative Javier Solana about the situation in Ukraine, and I can assure you that we share a common goal and perspective of the situation…
Tomorrow is the EU-Russian summit in Europe, and I am confident this will be a subject of discussion between the EU leadership and the Russians. We call on all sides to work to achieve a fair and just outcome without the use of force. We remind the Ukrainian authorities that they bear a special responsibility not to use or incite violence.
At the moment, weï¿½re not taking any actions. We want to see what the ultimate results are so weï¿½re not getting into any specifics. One suggestion that has been made is another election but there are other suggestions out there. This is the time for all alternatives to be examined, to be examined carefully, to be examined in light of the law, and hopefully, the parties acting reasonably and doing everything to avoid any use of force can find a way forward. Theyï¿½ll get a lot of assistance from the European community, from the United States, from President Kwasniewski of Poland, who is playing an important role. And right now, we are looking at a way to move forward, not a way to punish or to do anything else but move forward peacefully to get a result that reflects the will of the Ukrainian people in a free and fair manner so that it can be accepted by the Ukrainian people and by the international community.”
Colin Powell will be missed when he is no longer Secretary of State, that much is certain.
9:45: The Periscope has a good list of blogs covering the crisis:
All About Latvia, Fistful of Euros, Harry’s Blog, Neeka’s Backlog, Ostricised, Instapundit, National Review, The Guardian Newsblog, HeadHeeb, Foreign Notes, Obdymok, Volodymyr Campaign, Pora, Oh My!, Registan, and TulipGirl
10:00pm: More blogs to add to the list which have made contributions over the last couple of days:
Chrenkoff, Johann Norberg, Registan, LoboWalk, SueAndNotU, Belmont Club, Le Sabot Post-Moderne, SCSU Scholars, Ilya’s reflections, Histrologion, Knowledge Brings Fear, A Step at a Time, Epic Nation, Blog de Connard, einsodernull, What You Can Get Away With, Fighting Talk, Matthew Good, Airstrip One, Rising Hegemon, National Review Online (and again), Idiotprogrammer, Daniel Brett, and the hopefully not presciently-named Coming Anarchy.
“While a good portion of the population is ethnically Russian, all but a few identify themselves with *Ukraine*, not Russia. Even my Ukrainian friends from eastern Ukraine who speak only Russian think of themselves as part of Ukraine and support Yushchenko.
“…phrases like ‘. . . The EU and Russia should be able to work this out. . .’ come across just a tad condescending, as if the “parents” know what is better for Ukraine than Ukrainians themselves do.
“I think Oksana Zabuzhko has summed up nicely what many people outside of Ukraine are missing, and which it seems you may be, too, at least in this editorial.
“A widespread cliche used by many Western journalists to describe the major collision of our dramatic elections is that the establishment candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, is “pro-Russian,” and that opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, is “pro-Western.” This version has as little to do with the feelings of an average Ukrainian voter as with those of the belligerents of the Trojan war. Mr. Yanukovych is perceived not so much as being “pro-Russian,” but as, first and foremost, being “pro-criminal”. . .”I’ve heard so many “average” Ukrainians talk about how they believe Yushchenko is a *true* reformer. And these are the same people who have been cynical about anything ever changing for good. Yushchenko doesn’t represent the West–he represents hope.”
I wasn’t intending to go for the binary split (and I’m certainly not advocating a Ukranian partition along the lines of India and Pakistan in 1947) – the major point I was trying to make is that no matter who ends up President, a decent chunk of the population are going to be pissed off.
I’m still trying to work out the implications of this situation, and am still confused by it all, as we all are.
10:30pm: If you’re after more crackpot theories (and a bit of decent analysis), The Guardian’s Talkboards have been following events in Ukraine over the last 24 hours or so.
1) “Ukraine is Russia, Russia is the Ukraine! The West will never never ever accept the Ukraine into its structures and the Ukraine would be wise never to rely on its support. The Ukraine must look East in the long term. However when the Ukraine should do so depends on Russia – Russia must prove that it is developing into a society worth being a part of and joining – until that moment the Ukrainians should keep the Russians waiting.”
2) “The big tragedy here is that the West will never ever accept the Ukraine into its structures, let alone lift a finger now to help or ‘defend democracy’. Western Ukrainians need to be aware of this very painful reality. The West will leave you to hang out and dry! The Ukraine’s destiny is inextricably linked with Russia – they were joined at birth both at the heart and brain and separation is not possible.
“The Ukraine must look East in the long term. However, it should not move closer to Russia until Russia proves that it is developing into a society worth being a part of. Ukrainians should use this as a carrot for the Russians rather than face the Russian stick.”
I doubt very much that any of Yushchenko’s supporters will like either of these ideas. Are they the harsh voice of reality, or pessimism dressed up as pragmatism?