T Nation

Election Fraud

Seems probable in the Ukrainian elections – there seems to be a whole lot of trouble brewing over there. While people over here are have delusional fantasies concerning electronic voting machines, this is the real thing.

Here’s the White House statement on the Ukranian election trouble:


Statement on Ukrainian Elections

The United States is deeply disturbed by extensive and credible indications of fraud committed in the Ukrainian presidential election. We strongly support efforts to review the conduct of the election and urge Ukrainian authorities not to certify results until investigations of organized fraud are resolved. We call on the Government of Ukraine to respect the will of the Ukrainian people, and we urge all Ukrainians to resolve the situation through peaceful means. The Government bears a special responsibility not to use or incite violence, and to allow free media to report accurately on the situation without intimidation or coercion. The United States stands with the Ukrainian people in this difficult time.

Here’s a report from former Congressman Bob Schaeffer, who is in the Ukraine as an election observer:


Live reports from Ukraine

By The Denver Post

Editor’s note: former Colorado Congressman Bob Schaffer is in Ukraine as an election observer with the U.S./Ukraine Foundation and the Former Members of Congress Association. He is sending The Denver Post live reports from Kiev as the opposition party, led by Viktor Yushchenko, protests election results and claims the presidency.

The excerpts below are edited for grammar and spelling, and posted in order with the most recent e-mail at the top.

10:50 p.m. MST

Just after leaving my hotel at 5:45 a.m. for the airport, we drove past an assembling crowd of pro-Yanukovich demonstrators. Then we drove past about 30 busses parked near the downtown area to make it convenient for the demonstrators.

This was interesting after the great efforts taken by the government to stop buses, cars and trains of pro-Yushchenko demonstrators just the day before.

On the way to the airport I noticed sand trucks and other utility vehicles staging to block inbound traffic again, and lots of police checking vans and buses. We got pulled over, had our documents checked, then were free to go.

Got to the airport. Flight canceled!

Looks like I’ll get to spend time in at least five airports before I get home, and will feel lucky to make Thanksgiving dinner at the Schaffer house – where my wife and kids are preparing to host a very nice immigrant family we met this year.

Oh, they’re Ukrainians!

6:19 p.m. MST

I’m back in the middle of the demonstration. The appointed hour of the rumored confrontation of the crowd by government force has come and gone. No sign of police, military, internal army, etc.

The crowd is around 100,000 or so. Many restaurants are full at this hour feeding, hydrating and warming people.

Traffic along the east side of the demonstration (where my hotel is) is blaring horns to the distinctive three-blast cadence of the crowd shouting “Yush-chen-ko, Yush-chen-ko!”

Now at 2:20 a.m., some are leaving but others are replacing them. Many are wearing orange plastic garbage bags over their parkas.

The demonstrators have dubbed this the “Orange Revolution.” They’re confident they’re making world history in the democracy movement.

About 20 staff of the Ukrainian foreign ministry appeared on TV 45 minutes ago, holding a press conference at Yushchenko HQ. They say they are professionals and want to work for an honest president, though they neglected to say who is and who isn’t.

However, they were at the Yushchenko HQ so maybe they didn’t need to.

Also noteworthy was an announcement by several workers of the Ukrainian embassy in Washington, D.C. They announced support for Yushchenko earlier yesterday.

Now, 2:30, I just talked to a young couple who say they and their friends are tired of living under a corrupt government. They said they’ll do whatever it takes to support the new president Yushchenko. They both said they’re prepared to die on these streets if it comes to that.

My ride to the airport arrives in just three-and-a-half hours. I’ll head back to the hotel.

4:45 p.m. MST

Kuchma issues statement saying Yushchenko’s oath of office is a farce. He wants to gather all parties for a meeting in the morning.

I’m going back to the demonstration now.

4 p.m. MST

It appears opposition parliamentarians have all exited the presidential admin. bldg.

Kuchma was not in there. MP Julia Tymoshenko confirmed that many of the guards are indeed Russians dressed in Ukrainian militia uniforms. They’re bedecked in riot gear – helmets, face shields, 3’ riot shields, black uniforms, etc.

An Assistant Secretary of State (U.S.) told the Russians the U.S. is upset Putin prematurely congratulated Yanukovich. The Russians responded with a statement the U.S. is out of line in objecting.

The presence of Russian troops here is a very serious international incident. This causes great tension between the U.S. and Russia.

There is simply no way these soldiers should be deployed here.

There is now being constructed a second tent city in front of the guard line at the presidential admin. bldg.

Post / file
Former Congressman Bob Schaffer
The guards are now being called the “internal army.” There are Ukrainians and Russians in the ranks. The Ukrainian soldiers seem sympathetic to the crowd, but the Russians who comprise the third row and others behind, look ready to fight.

3:30 p.m. MST

Yushchenko is now inside the administration building. If he gets into the presidential suite, this episode should be a complete, successful peaceful revolution.

The Special Forces protecting the building are estimated to be 1,000 strong standing 20 deep. They are in formation and seem at ease.

Interesting thing, the crowd is decorating the riot shields of the officers in the front line with orange ribbons, orange carnations and little Yushchenko flags. The officers are not removing the decorations.

Parliamentarians are now coming and going through the front door.

President Kuchma does not appear to be inside. The opposition intends to wait all night and see if he returns. Again, rumors indicate he’s in St. Petersberg but this is not confirmed.

The Ukrainian agency equivalent to our FCC tried to revoke the broadcasting liscense of the independent TV station (channel 5) covering the revolution because the news “was one sided and favored Yushchenko.”

The station had the good sense to shoot footage of the exchange and broadcast it on the news for all to see.

Some parliamentarians appear to be leaving the presidential administration building. They say they are getting some sleep, and will pick it up in the morning.

Yushchenko is still believed to be inside along with a few key allies.

A second TV station is now covering the revolution. They may have been for a few hours, since we last checked.

The demonstrators in the tent city are bedding down now (sub-zero temperatures) but there’s still lots of activity with about 100,000 people there to support.

People are bringing food to those demonstrating through the night. Out-of-town demonstrators are going home with perfect strangers in Kyiv for the night. I met a guy who told me he’s hosting seven guys in his two-bedroom apartment – and these city dwellings are NOT usually roomy.

2 p.m. MST

Ukrainian militia officers are pledging support for Yushchenko and are now trying to persuade the Russian special forces to do the same.

Twenty buses have been holding near the Central Election Commission. They’ve been training there, too. They’re now on the move. Where?

Back at the center of the demonstration, organizers urged people to go home, eat, get rest, but for about 100,000 to remain to protect the tent-city dwellers. They will be on civil strike again tomorrow, reassemble at 8 a.m. and get instructions on establishing the new Yushchenko government.

Whether and how to declare marshall law is being discussed.

The crowd started chanting “Svobodu ne spynyty” (Freedom will not be stopped) and “Nas bohato en nas ne poldelateh” (There’s a lot of us and we can’t be stopped)

Other notes: It’s still snowing and getting colder – I mean Ukrainian cold (pretty darn).

The tallest flag pole in the center of Independence Square has a Ukrainian flag (two bars – blue over yellow) flying over an orange Yushchenko banner. It towers over the area. You can’t miss it. CNN is covering this revolution from Moscow. BBC and other international news is several hours old.

Women have been observed out on the highways with brooms sweeping off the star-shaped road spikes placed by the militia to stop inbound travelers to Kyiv. Keep in mind, it’s darn cold downtown.

It must feel 10 degrees colder at the outskirts of town. Plus it’s 11 p.m.!

1:40 p.m. MST

(Russian President Vladimir) Putin just issued a statement somewhat reversing his position.

After backing Yanukovich for months and devoting personnel, resources and persoanl capital to help his campaign, Putin was first to phone Yanukovich yesterday to congratulate him on his “victory.”

Minutes ago, he issued a statement admitting he called Yanukovich and congratulated him based only on preliminary data. He now says he supports the will of the people.

He says Russia has nothing to teach Ukraine about domocracy, as Ukraine is a big country with its own traditions and determination. He’s wiping egg off his face.

Poland’s President Aleksander Kwasniewski just issued a statement that the election results in Ukraine were unsatisfactory.

The Crimean parliament just issued a resolution backing Yanukovich.

1:15 p.m., MST

Top parliamentarians supporting Yushchenko, MPs Yulia Tymoshenko, Zinchenko and Bilozir are now in the presidential admin. bldg.

The Russian special forces (Spetsnats) are in the building, too. Supposedly, they are negotiating with the parliamentarians.

The Kyiv militia/police are not in the vicinity of the admin. bldg. They are taking orders from Mayor Olmechinko.

There is a fear the Russians will soon begin firing on the people. Word of this possibility is spreading through the crowd but they’re standing their ground.

Students at 10 Ukraine universities have now announced they are on strike in support of Yushchenko.

Statements by various foreign governments continue being issued denouncing the unfair elections.

The Kyiv Dynamo soccer team started tonight’s scheduled match. No one wearing orange is permitted to enter. The stadium attendance is way down. The team is owned by Ukraine’s prominent oligarch Grigory Sirkus, also an MP.

The state-owned TV station is running the soccer game live instead of covering the revolution taking place just outside the stadium. The event is broadcast nationwide.

The independent channel carrying news covers only 30% of the country.

Pro-Yushchenko demonstrations are now well underway in most of the medium- to larger-sized cities in the Western two-thirds of the country, and in a couple in the East.

Heavy guards are in front of the presidential admin. bldg. in riot gear. They’ve walled off the bldg. from the crowd.

The crowd is large and loud, but not aggressive, not challenging the riot police.

12:30 pm MST

The Russian special forces in Ukrainian uniforms stopped the marchers. No sign of violence.

It was announced on Ukraine TV5 that the (city council) of Kharkhiv, often assumed to be a Yanukovich stronghold, will adopt a resolution recognizing Yushchenko first thing tomorrow morning.

Rumors are now circulating that outgoing President Leonid Kuchma has fled his country and is now in St. Petersburg, Russia. These reports are being repeated on foreign news.

Ukraine’s top music entertainers have taken the stage at the demonstration. They’re performing pop tunes to keep the crowd motivated, but their mere presence sends a strong message of confirmation and reassurance to the people.

The TV news showed clips of military equipment, tanks and artillary, being unloaded off of railcars in Kyiv and boxes of ammunition. That has everyone nervous.

No news yet on the stand-off near the presidential admin. bldg. It’s a very, very tense moment here right now.

12:20 p.m. MST

A representative of the Greek Catholic Church (a man who appeared to be a priest – dressed as one) announced at the demonstration that he was speaking on behalf of the Greek Catholic Church, the Kyiv Patriarchiat and several Protestant denominations (Lutheran was the only specific one I heard but there were several others). He said this coalition of churches recognizes Yushchenko as president.

Yuschenko is now leading one million people from the square and surrounding streets to the administration headquarters of the Ukrainian government. He is in front of the column and many fear he is vulnerable to getting shot. They should be at the steps in 15 mins. Keep in mind, this is where the Russian special forces are stationed, dresses in Ukrainian garb.

If violence comes to define this revolution it will likely be within minutes.

NOTE: the following messages were sent in one e-mail this morning.

The crowd in Kyiv is growing. Yushchenko’s lieutenant just announced that factories throughout Ukraine are pledging their support for Yushchenko. So are regional political leaders and growing numbers of local jurisdictions. He said Yushchenko will be coming to the platform to take the oath of office in front of the crowd.

The crowd is chanting “nas bahato in nas ne pohdilatah” (There are a lot of us and we can’t be brought down).

Russian special forces dressed in Ukrainian Special forces uniforms are in Kyiv. Ukrainian militia have been instructed by the mayor to protect the people from the Russian troops. Ukrainian militia have established a hotline for Ukrainians to report any incidents with the Russians and pledged to protect Ukrainians.

These Russians flew into Ukraine this morning. They’re now surrounding the administration buildings they say "to protect Kuchma (the outgoing president and his PM Yanukovich). Following is a chain of email messages I’ve been sending by blackberry. Please pass along to others. Bob Schaffer

I’m safe for now. Demonstrators are reassembling in Kyiv. They’re coming back stronger than yesterday coming in from the rest of the country. The authorities are trying to stop them. Cars and busses are being stopped by police at the outskirts of the city. The authorities have scattered road spikes on inbound lanes to stop traffic/protesters. People are walking down the highways to protest. Trains into the city have been stopped.

The parliament is meeting now but without the president’s supporters or the Communists. After several speeches, they called Yushchenko to the podium to swear him in as the new president (escorted to the podium with guards). The Rada Speaker Litvin walked out. Then the TV station (only one station covers anything about the election and it only covers 30% of the country) went off then cut to news and footage from earlier in the day. This is similar to the revolution in Georgia.

It seems the opposition has now claimed control of the parliament and most likely named Yushchenko as the president. He walked to the podium with a Bible and a copy of the oath in his hand. 300,000 pro-Yushchenko supporters are in the city square and watched what I described above on a jumbo TV. They’re celebrating what they believe is their new president.

Provocateurs are infiltrating the crowd. Special forces are said to be moving in to disband the crowd. This is now a clearly declared revolutionary effort. A confrontation seems unavoidable now.

It’s very tense here. School has been canceled (again) for tomorrow. I’ll report more as I learn it.

Now we hear Yushchenko is headed to the city center to address the masses. His lieutenants will be giving instructions to the people outside the Rada building on “what to do.”

Telephones in the outlying towns have been shut off.

Now we hear there are Russians in Ukrainian special forces uniforms. I’ll report more as I learn it. May God bless and protect Ukraine and her people.

More of the latest and greatest info from the Ukrainian election crisis:

Protests Over Ukraine Vote Grow
As West, Russia Spar Over Crisis

By ALAN CULLISON in Kiev, Ukraine, and PHILIP SHISHKIN in Brussels
November 24, 2004; Page A1

Tens of thousands of demonstrators swarmed the streets of Kiev to protest Ukraine’s disputed presidential election, as the U.S. and other Western countries stepped up pressure on Ukrainian authorities to revise their vote tally.

Protesters loyal to pro-Western candidate Viktor Yushchenko, many clad in the orange color adopted by his campaign, turned out in larger numbers than the day before to set up military kitchens and tents in Kiev’s Independence Square. The demonstrators remained peaceful, but opposition leaders urged them to prepare for a long, cold standoff with the government over the preliminary count of ballots in Sunday’s runoff vote, which gave government-backed candidate Viktor Yanukovych a narrow majority.

“Ukraine is on the threshold of a civil conflict,” Mr. Yushchenko told supporters. “We have two choices: Either the answer will be given by the parliament, or the streets will give an answer.”

He took a symbolic oath of office on a Bible after a failed attempt to have Parliament challenge the election results. With virtual control over the capital, Kiev, the opposition appeared to have seized the initiative after Sunday’s voting.

For its part, Mr. Yanukovych’s party called on Mr. Yushchenko to concede.

Late yesterday, signs of a possible crack in the mounting tension appeared as Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, speaking for the first time in two days, invited Mr. Yushchenko and Mr. Yanukovych to talk. The Interfax news agency reported that a top figure in Mr. Yushchenko’s camp had accepted the offer.

Still, Mr. Kuchma and Russia’s government, which backed Mr. Yanukovych, angrily criticized Western leaders for their public criticism of the election’s fairness, even as Western election observers dismissed the voting process as flawed and urged Ukrainian authorities to correct it.

The Bush administration urged the Ukrainian government not to certify the election results, and the State Department called in Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Yury Ushakov, to voice concern over Moscow’s rapid embrace of Mr. Yanukovych. “The United States is deeply concerned by extensive and credible indications of fraud,” said White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan.

In addition, two of the 15 members of Ukraine’s Central Election Commission appeared on Ukrainian television and called on their colleagues not to certify the vote results as official. The preliminary results published so far don’t have legal force and the commission has until Dec. 5 to release official results.

The tug-of-war over Ukraine’s future political course has implications not just for the country itself, but also for the balance of power between a newly assertive Russia and the West. Ukraine is by far the largest and most important common neighbor for Russia and the European Union and is a large recipient of U.S. foreign aid.

The prospect of Ukraine declaring a Yanukovych victory presents the West with a dilemma: accept the controversial results and allow Moscow a renewed free hand in the region, or isolate Ukraine politically and push it even further into Russia’s orbit while risking a rupture with Moscow.

The dispute comes at an awkward time, as the European Union negotiates with the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin over how it should approach former Soviet allies that are sandwiched between Russia and the EU, which took in eight former Soviet satellites on May 1.

“Russia simply sees it has its own interests in these countries, like the Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus, Moldova,” said Kristiina Ojuland, Estonia’s foreign minister. “This is the problem, of course.”

The EU and Moscow have so far been unable to agree on a policy, mostly because Russia is reluctant to allow too much EU interference in the region, European diplomats say. An EU-Russia summit, scheduled for tomorrow in The Hague, is unlikely to break the deadlock but could provide an uncomfortable series of meetings between EU and Russian officials, including Mr. Putin.

For now, both Washington and the European capitals are seeking to put enough diplomatic pressure on the Ukrainian government to force it to correct the vote tally. Western election observers called attention to several irregularities, including voter-turnout rates in some parts of the country as high as 99%, a level rarely seen in democratic elections. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, speaking on behalf of the 25-nation EU, called Mr. Kuchma to say he doubted the outcome “reflected the will of the Ukrainian electorate.” That echoed similar statements across Europe and in Washington.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R., Ind.), chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, who traveled to Kiev for the election as President Bush’s envoy, said the U.S. and Europe still have a chance to help defuse the crisis.

The crowds gathering in Kiev expect strong backing from Western governments. Mr. Yushchenko’s supporters told the crowd that the West had denounced the elections, and that sanctions were being prepared against the government.

But Moscow warned that Western criticisms were “openly pushing the opposition to illegal, forceful actions.” The EU’s position had been clear from the first round of elections, the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement: “Either Yushchenko wins or the elections don’t meet our standards, are falsified and antidemocratic.”

The Russian government, which sent its own observers to monitor the vote, also reiterated its position that Yanukovych won. “Despite the violations that took place, the elections were democratic, free, transparent and, of course, legitimate,” the Russian foreign ministry said.

A Western diplomat in Kiev said the Kremlin and Ukrainian government have been taken aback by the storm of Western criticism over the election. The Ukrainians may be balking at such a strong dispute with the West, the diplomat said, blaming the tense situation on a miscalculation by Moscow and Kiev that they could present the election of Mr. Yanukovych as a fait accompli and that opposition would quickly melt away.

But it was unclear whether Western pressure would go any further. In Europe, new members of the EU, particularly the Baltic countries on the EU’s eastern edge, favor a tougher line in talks with Moscow. But among some older Western European members, such as Italy, the sentiment toward a strategic partnership with Moscow usually trumps other considerations. Such divisions are likely to dilute any concerted European response to Moscow’s role in the Ukrainian elections.

Even some of the European hawks on relations with Russia caution against isolating or sanctioning Ukraine if Mr. Yanukovych ends up being declared the winner when Ukraine’s Central Election Commission declares the results official. “In case we have Yanukovych, we will have to work with him,” said a senior Lithuanian diplomat. “If we shut down the doors in front of his nose, the only one to benefit from this would be Putin.”

Write to Alan Cullison at alan.cullison@wsj.com and Philip Shishkin at philip.shishkin@wsj.com

This situation is not dying down - it seems the crowds in Kiev are bigger today than they were yesterday. Here’s an informative editorial from the Washington Post:

Ukraine’s Crisis

Thursday, November 25, 2004; Page A42

FACED WITH extraordinary demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of citizens demanding democracy, Ukraine’s corrupt and thuggish government wavered this week, hinting that it might be willing to negotiate about the outcome of the presidential election that took place Sunday. Yet yesterday its official electoral commission ratified the fraudulent result that brought those crowds into the streets of the capital: It declared that Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych had won despite abundant evidence to the contrary. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell rightly responded that the United States “cannot accept this result as legitimate” and “stands with the people of Ukraine and their effort to ensure their democratic choice.” In the coming days the United States and its European allies must follow up on those words by demanding that the Ukrainian authorities – and their backers in Moscow – listen to, rather than repress, the majority that now seeks to prevent their country from becoming an authoritarian state.

Some have described the crisis in Ukraine as a contest for influence between Russia and the West, with the West backing opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko in the same measure that Russian President Vladimir Putin has supported the official candidate. That is a gross distortion. For the Ukrainians who have spent four freezing nights in the streets of Kiev, the fight is not about geopolitical orientation – most favor close relations with Moscow – but about whether theirs will be a free country, with an independent press and courts and leaders who are chosen by genuine democratic vote. Mr. Putin, who has channeled hundreds of millions of dollars into the prime minister’s campaign, is backing the imposition of an authoritarian system along the lines of the one he is creating in Russia – with a propagandistic regime, controlled media, official persecution of dissent, business executives who take orders from the state, and elections that are neither free nor fair.

By protesting the fraud in Ukraine, the United States and European Union are seeking not to recruit a new Western client but to defend the democracy and independence that most Ukrainians want. If they succeed, they will not create an East-West divide but will prevent Mr. Putin from doing so. His actions, in Ukraine and elsewhere, point toward the establishment of a new bloc of non-democratic countries controlled by the Kremlin that would sharply contrast with the neighboring European Union.

The Bush administration has been admirably frank and forceful this week in denouncing the fraud in Ukraine and in making clear to Ukrainians that it is on their side. In the coming days it must drive home the message to Mr. Yanukovych that he will be a pariah in Washington – notwithstanding his cynical offer to extend the deployment of Ukrainian troops in Iraq – if he accepts his illegitimate mandate, and that he and all of his governmental and business allies will be held personally responsible for any violence against the opposition. At the same time, President Bush needs to accept that U.S. hopes of cooperation with Russia, in the Middle East or elsewhere, cannot be insulated from Mr. Putin’s anti-democratic imperialism in Eastern Europe. The West must take a clear stand against that policy, before it is too late to prevent a redivision of the continent.

This is a pretty damn big story – anyone have any opinions on this? Thoughts on the whole East/West aspect of the conflict?

Here’s an update from Reuters:

Ukraine Parliament Votes to Sack Government
Wed Dec 1, 2004 10:20 AM ET

By Elizabeth Piper

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine’s opposition scored a victory on Wednesday in its drive to overturn what it says was a rigged election, when parliament sacked the government of Prime Minister and president-designate Viktor Yanukovich.

Several hurdles remain before opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko can claim outright victory in a crisis that has threatened to tear apart the ex-Soviet state which sits between former master Russia and an expanded European Union.

The vote passed at the second attempt through secret ballot at an unruly sitting of the assembly, with Yushchenko’s backers sporting orange scarves and ties – his campaign color.

Outside, tens of thousands of his supporters followed the debate through loudspeakers, cheering wildly at every procedural measure and embracing as the outcome was announced.

“It is an important and serious victory for us but there is still a lot to be done,” parliamentary deputy Mykola Tomenko told crowds in nearby Independence Square, taken over by opposition supporters since the disputed Nov. 21 presidential election.

The opposition has vowed to use “People Power” to win demands for a new election soon.

Deputies also voted on Wednesday to create an interim “government of national trust.”

Approval came just before the start of talks between international mediators and the two candidates on the crisis.

Mediators included European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus. Also present was outgoing Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma.

Kuchma earlier made clear he would not easily give up his battle with the opposition, rejecting its key demand the presidential run-off his protege won be held again.

“Any rerun would simply be a farce. I cannot see it in any other way and I will never support it as it would be unconstitutional,” he told a meeting of economic officials.

But the European Union’s Dutch presidency said a rerun was the only way out.

“I don’t see how all the complaints that have been filed on the second round of the elections can be solved in such a way that the outcome of this round of elections is ultimately acceptable to all,” Dutch Europe Minister Atzo Nicolai said.

“In such a case a new second round of elections may be the only way out. We then have to ensure they are conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner,” he told the European Parliament.


The Supreme Court was sitting for a third day to decide whether the election was fraudulent.

If it rules in favor of the opposition, the Central Election Commission will have to revoke the victory it handed to Yanukovich and can then either set a repeat vote or a completely new election which would take up to three months to complete.

Yanukovich, who has repeatedly said there was cheating in Yushchenko’s stronghold in western Ukraine, submitted his own case on fraud, one of the court’s judges said.

“Yanukovich has submitted to the Supreme Court an appeal on the inactivity of the Central Election Commission,” the judge said. “It says the Commission distorted the outcome of the election during the count. Consequently, the results do not reflect the will of the people.”

The sacking of Yanukovich, crucially for the opposition, means he has effectively lost his administrative power base to help in a new election.

But there is widespread speculation that Kuchma will drop him and look for a new protege to challenge Yushchenko.

The world view of the two rivals differs widely, with Yushchenko looking to the European Union that has expanded up to Ukraine’s borders as crucial to hopes of raising the economy.

Yanukovich looks to achieve that goal with traditional partners in the former Soviet Union, especially Russia which has dominated Ukraine for centuries and is its main source of energy. More exports, however, go to the European Union.

The EU views Ukraine, with its industrial and agricultural might still to be exploited, as a future member.

For Russia, it is part of the family. Its loss to the embrace of the West would underline the Kremlin’s dwindling influence in a region it once ruled.

? Reuters 2004. All Rights Reserved.

Timothy Garton Ash, writing in the op-ed section of the Guardian but sounding much more sane than the typical news stories in that publication, argues for why this is important and why the Ukranians who want democracy deserve support:


Freedom’s front line

Europe must give immediate and total support to Ukraine’s velvet revolutionaries

Timothy Garton Ash
Thursday November 25, 2004
The Guardian

Can Europe’s velvet revolution claim another prize? When Ukrainian demonstrators on the frozen streets of Kiev place flowers in the perforated metal shields of their country’s riot police, they are sending us two desperate yet dignified messages: “We want to join Europe” and “We want to do this in a European way”. Peacefully, that is, supplanting the old Jacobin-Bolshevik model of violent regime change with Europe’s new model of velvet revolution - as in Prague and Berlin in 1989, as in Serbia’s toppling of Milosevic, as in Georgia, where exactly one year ago the people’s president marched into parliament bearing a long-stemmed rose. If we, comfortably ensconced in the institutionalised Europe to which these peaceful demonstrators look with hope and yearning, do not immediately support them with every appropriate means at our disposal, we will betray the very ideals we claim to represent.

Tomorrow may already be too late. I’m typing these words on Wednesday afternoon. Who knows what will have happened in Ukraine by the time you read them? As I write, both sides are still just about respecting the first commandment in Europe’s new catechism: no violence. But for how much longer? During the presidential election campaign, leather-jacketed thugs beat up supporters of the pro-European candidate Viktor Yushchenko. But the young female protester in Kiev can still express her hope for a peaceful solution: “as in Georgia a year ago … as it should be in a civilised country”.

The learning chain of Europe’s velvet revolutions is fascinatingly direct. One of the most active groups in Ukraine’s democratic opposition is called Pora. Pora means “It’s time”, which is exactly what the crowds chanted on Wenceslas Square in Prague in November 1989. The student activists of Pora received personal tutorials in non-violent resistance from Serbian students of the Otpor (“resistance”) group who were in the vanguard of toppling Milosevic. Those same Serbs also helped the Georgian vanguard movement Kmara (“enough is enough”). On Tuesday, a Georgian flag was seen waving on Independence Square in Kiev. In Tbilisi, the rose-revolutionary Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili interrupted his first anniversary address to speak a few words of encouragement, in Ukrainian, to his “sisters and brothers” in Kiev. Now the Ukrainian opposition has asked Lech Walesa, once the leader of Solidarity, that Polish mother of all east European peaceful revolutions, to come to Kiev and mediate.

The tricks on the other side are familiar too. Most important of all is the grotesque abuse of state television to favour the pro-Russian candidate, Viktor Yanukovich. (State television stations are today’s Bastilles.) Then heavy-handed interventions from Moscow, including two visits by the Russian president and former KGB-officer Vladimir Putin. Intimidation. Censorship. Lies. Dirty tricks, including a novel variant in which Yanukovich supporters were apparently given multiple voter registration cards so they could “vote early and vote often” in several different constituencies. The Ukrainian opposition refers to them ironically as “free voters”. Miners from the Donbass region are reportedly being bussed in to sort out these pansy urban liberals. (Something very similar happened to keep Ceausescu’s successors in power in Romania.) Then there are the incredible turnout figures, as in east European dictatorships of old, including one marvellous return of more than 100%.

Who says Europe is boring? Yet until Tuesday, many west Europeans probably did not even know that there was a presidential election going on in Ukraine. We were all focused on that other crucial presidential election, in the US. And, shamingly, Americans probably have done more to support the democratic opposition in Ukraine, and to shine a spotlight on electoral malpractices, than west Europeans have. Poles, Czechs and Slovaks have been more actively engaged, understanding how much is at stake.

What’s at stake is not just the future of Ukraine: whether it turns to Europe, the west and liberal democracy, or back to authoritarianism and Putin’s Russia. It’s also the future of Russia itself, and therewith of the whole of Eurasia. A Russia that wins back Ukraine, as well as Belarus, will again be an imperial Russia, as Putin wishes. A Russia that sees even Ukraine moving towards Europe and the west, has a chance of itself becoming, with time, a more normal, liberal, democratic nation-state. But at the moment, under Putin, Russia is launched on a different, worse trajectory, and western leaders have been united in their pusillanimity towards it. We have all been appeasers there.

Of course, there’s a global power play involved, too. Georgia, under its new government, has become a closer partner of the United States. Ukraine under Yushchenko might do the same. But above all, it will be turned towards Europe. These days, the most fervent pro-Europeans are to be found at the edges of Europe, and none more so than westward-looking Ukrainians. It’s the European Union they hope one day to join, not the United States of America.

In the short term, there’s a limit to what we can do. For once, the leadership of the EU has spoken out as plainly as Washington. “We don’t accept these [election] results,” said the Dutch foreign minister, Bernard Bot, speaking for the current presidency of the EU. “We think they are fraudulent.” Well said, Mr Bot. And Javier Solana, the nearest thing the EU has to a collective foreign minister, has warned that Ukraine’s relationship with the EU will depend on its relationship to democracy. Yet clearly, the immediate crisis has to be resolved internally, between the Ukrainians themselves.

It should, however, be our unambiguous position that peaceful civil disobedience is a legitimate, even a necessary response to electoral fraud. And that the use of military or police force to deny people the right to peaceful protest is something we do not accept in 21st-century Europe. Actually, it’s in places like Kiev, rather than in Brussels, that you see what a great story Europe has to tell, if only we knew how to tell it. It’s the story of a rolling enlargement of freedom, from a position 60 years ago when there was just a handful of perilously free countries in Europe, and virtually the whole continent was at war, to a position today where there are only two or three seriously unfree countries in Europe, and almost the whole continent is at peace. Today, the front line of that forward march is in Ukraine.

Orwell writes somewhere that “from inside, everything looks worse”. Whatever its faults seen from inside, and they are many, seen from outside the European Union is a great magnet and promoter of freedom. Most of our neighbours want to join it in order to become more free (as well as richer), and so as to secure the freedoms many of them have fought for in velvet revolutions.

In the longer term, to say, as I believe we should, that a democratic Ukraine has its proper place in the EU, is the best support we could give Ukrainian democrats. Immediately, though, we need the hardest, sharpest warning that Europe, the US and any other democracy that has influence in Kiev or Moscow can deliver. A group of students in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv send us this appeal via the BBC website: “We just hope Yanukovich decides not to turn the guns on us … Don’t let them kill our will.”