Thursday, November 25, 2004

Ukraine crisis continued - room for hope

For a chronology of events and a by-the-minute look at the boom in global coverage over the last week: one, two, three , four, five, and some analysis - between them these provide a chronology of events and coverage from 7pm on Monday 22nd November until 5:30pm on Thursday 25th (London time), as well as an almost insane number of links to other blogs covering events, articles, news sources and the like.

If you've liked my coverage, please consider bunking a vote my way in The Deutche-Welle International Weblog Awards, where this blog has been nominated in the category Best Journalistic Blog (English) - it'd be much appreciated.

Blogger's been acting up again, but little has changed that hasn't already been covered by the mainstream western media - better late than never for them to get on the case, eh? Here's a quick round-up:

Although there was no agreement between Russia and the EU reached today (and although it looks unlikely that Putin will back down, especially now the bastion of democracy that is China has weighed in to say the elections were fair), there is much room for hope, even if this may prove to be just the first of an on-going series of confrontations between the EU and Russia.

The Ukrainian Supreme Court has announced that it feels the election to be dodgy, and has prevented any inauguration from taking place until the results have been investigated. Considering the number of defections from the government side already - including sections of the military and police - they haven't got reliable enough support to risk going against the Supreme Court, and certainly can't if they want to maintain their claims of a lawful win.

Also, the press has become much more free. Information is flowing within Ukraine in a way that has been impossible during the last few days, letting the people gain a far better idea of what is going on - even though no one yet truly knows. With knowledge of what has been going on in the government's name, perhaps yet more will join the Orange Revolution. Neeka provides a Ukrainian perspective.

Tonight, the actions of the Supreme Court and the growing refusal of the Ukrainian press to simply act as a government mouthpiece means that good old Victor Katolyk, who has done an amazing job covering the events over at The Periscope, has clocked off early. His final post?

"Everything seems to be great."

Time will tell. They aren't out of the woods yet, and with the wild card that is Putin on the scene, anything could still happen. But the world has woken up to the Orange Revolution, and international support is growing by the minute, and you can add yours here.

However, British Prime Minister Tony Blair today said in an interview broadcast on the BBC's "Newsnight" that he would refrain from making a definitive statement of support for either candidate until the situation is clearer.

He makes a very good point - with all the corruption it is important to remember that NEITHER candidate yet has a democratic mandate. Yushchenko may be the more appealing, and he may well have been denied many votes thanks to governmental corruption, but his claims to have won are based on no hard evidence. The only real solution is for the elections to be run again - this time with much, much closer independent scrutiny. This could still take a while...

Quick update: TulipGirl has one of those posts that just makes you feel all warm inside, from her friend Lena:

"Quite recently I didn't believe that my people able to resist to violence and humiliation. 2 month ago I guessed that I live in the worst country in the world. I was oppressed when I could not see a dignity in my fellow citizens, that I could not see the willingness to freedom and happiness in them...

"November, 22 I started to be really proud of my co-citizens. Now I can see that them are not passive mammals who want just to dig comfortable burrow, to generate they own posterity and to finish life in poverty, pretending that there is no another way. Since November, 22 there was not a crowd on the main square of my country. It is the PEOPLE. It is the NATION. Love, faith and hope filled up a whole space of capitol of my country and warm these people who spend the nights on the frost snowing street...

"We are the people in the most exalted and humane sense of this word. And not only number turns us to be the force, but exactly these LOVE, FAITH and HOPE which live in everybody now.

"Ukrainians, I am happy that I was so wrong about you before!

"--Lena, November 25, 2004"

Europhobia's Ukraine coverage continues here.

Ukraine crisis continued - detente?

For a chronology of events and a by-the-minute look at the boom in global coverage over the last week: one, two, three , four, five - between them these provide a chronology of events and coverage from 7pm on Monday 22nd November until 11pm on Wednesday 24th (London time), as well as an almost insane number of links to other blogs covering events, articles, news sources and the like.

If you've liked my coverage, please consider bunking a vote my way in The Deutche-Welle International Weblog Awards, where this blog has been nominated in the category Best Journalistic Blog (English) - it'd be much appreciated.

Now that the situation seems to have reached an impasse, both sides are preparing for talks to try to end the crisis, and the international press and diplomatic community have woken up to the risk of civil war, such intensive blog coverage may not be necessary, although I'll continue to provide updates as they occur.

It may now be useful to get some background on Ukrainian internal politics, to understand just how different this situation is from the rather simplistic Yushchenko = good, pro-Western, Yanukovych = bad, pro-Russian take which it is so easy to fall in to.

TulipGirl's transcript of an article by Ukranian novelist Oksana Zabuzhko's article "Ukraine's Solidarity" is a very good starting point:

"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" -- a Ukrainian Al Capone, who has under his belt two prison sentences for robbery and assault, and publicly uses criminal argot compared to which even the boorish tongue of retiring President Leonid Kuchma sounds as innocuous as a school textbook."

There's more from Zabuzhko here:

"With no change of the political elite, with just the very small beginnings of civil society, with no real revolution, Ukraine has started sliding back into the dark shadow of Sovietization. In the current election campaign, the whole strategy of the presidential "candidate of power," Viktor Yanukovich, is the brainchild of Moscow professionals and spin doctors. And Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has in such short order turned his own country into a place browbeaten by the fear of terrorism, has turned up in Kiev to offer support for the Ukrainian thugs active in this election. Small wonder: Criminals and KGB officers have worked together since the good old days of the Gulag.

"We know how eagerly the Western press buys the made-in-Russia political analysis of the current Ukrainian situation - the version that says Ukraine is "split" into East and West, "pro-Russian" and "pro-Western" factions. As George Orwell knew, the old totalitarian dragon feeds on artificially constructed illusions. So I just want to let you know how things look and feel from here. And to say that this is not a farewell letter. It is a letter of hope."

Le Sabot Post-Moderne - a Ukranian blog in English - is beginning an overview of Ukranian politics, which looks promising:

"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'...

"Yanukovych isn't just another unscrupulous candidate, he's the main man of Akhmetov -- the duke of Donetsk and the richest man in Ukraine. The current president, Kuchma, is the head of a different clan, Dnepropetrovsk. The presidential administrator is Medvedchuk, who happens to run the Kiev-based Medvedchuk-Surkis clan. He also owns the two biggest Ukrainian TV stations, which is awfully convenient.

"While there is jockeying for control among these clans, the overall effect is for them to sustain one another in power. They all depend on the same system for survival, and actively collaborate to keep it in place."

LoboWalk also has some good insights, and has taken me to task for providing too simplistic an analysis:

"[Yanukovych's] intended use is to be nothing more than a hand-puppet for Putin and Kuchma. The only reason Yanukovych is even in this situation is because Kuchma was unable to carry his thug-mafioso government practices far enough to finagle yet another term of his own...

"to most Ukrainians this is not only a matter of national pride but it's about
freedom as well. They recognize their own identity and it's not with Russia, Belarus, or any other country. Ukraine already suffered under Russia; think of the 7 million who starved to death under a Stalin imposed famine. Ukraine has always been used, exploited and raped by Russia. Ukriane's culture doesn't originate from Russia, all Slavic cultures, in many ways, owe their origination to Ukraine. Ukraine was an identity long before Russia existed."

12:45pm update: All About Latvia has found an alternate take on Yushchenko, which just goes to show how complex the situation is. Whether these allegations are true or not, I have no idea:

"Why everyone here is so delighted about Yushchenko? The Ukrainians remember his abysmal term as a prime-minister and all those corruption scandals he was involved in. I work at the huge enterprise belonging to the son-in-law of President Kuchma which was obtained by underhand means. It's remarkable that Kuchma's son-in-law is the main sponsor of Yushchenko's presidential campaign. I'm afraid that if Yushchenko wins, the corruption will only grow...

"The crisis demonstrates that there is no such country as Ukraine. There is one country of which Kiev and Lviv are the main centres, where they speak one language and look primarily to the West. And there is completely different country of which the main centres are Kharkiv and Odessa where they speak another language and look to Moscow for support. The latter country is larger in population and more industrially advanced. So the pro-Western candidate has no chance of winning the Ukrainian elections abiding by law. The Western powers would help him to get power by enciting civil unrest, that's the only way."

There's not going to be an easy solution to this.

1:20pm: Victor keeps up his coverage at The Periscope - lots of conflicting reports, and rumours of scuffles, but no serious incidents as of yet. The Ukrainian media seems to be either not operating or in support of Yushchenko, so a balanced view of the situation is practically impossible.

Nonetheless, there are some signs of hope (albeit with a worrying postscript):

"Crowds of Yanukovich supporters peacefully mix with Yushchenko supporters. They still wear white and blue, but this doesn't bar them from finding common language with the 'orange' protesters. However, there are also 'blue' crowds of aggressive youngsters that don't look willing to mix with the others."

Show your support: sign the letter of freedom and solidarity"

LoboWalk has more updates including ways for Americans to lobby Washington to support Ukraine.

Italian coverage of the crisis.

Swedish coverage.

Yet more background information and a new discussion forum.

5:30pm: Fistful has a good round-up of today's developments. It's all still very confused, but the threat of violence seems to have died down - for now.

Europhobia's Ukraine coverage continues here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Ukraine crisis continued - any solution?

This follows on from this, this, this and this, which between them provide a chronology of events and coverage from 7pm on Monday 22nd November until 11pm on Wednesday 24th (London time). I'll continue to keep a close eye on the situation, but for tonight, it seems calm. For now.

Nick at Fistful has a final update, and a few thoughts which pretty much tally with mine:

"there were points this afternoon where I thought we could be just a short while away from a dramatic descent into violence on the streets of Kiev and elsewhere. As rumours flew around Kiev and echoed onto the internet (and as I mentioned in an email earlier tonight, we probably heard only 10% of the stories that were chinese whispered around the streets) it seemed as though the CEC meeting and declaration was going to be a flashpoint after which it would all go up. It would have been easy for Yanukovich to take power and move against the opposition then - as the reports suggested he would - and it’s to his credit that he has opened up a bit of space for air with his comments that no political position is worth anyone’s life."

Lets hope the calm and rationality of these two deeply opposed sides can prevail, and that no matter how the presidency is settled, bloodshed can be avoided.

Victor sums up the mood in Kiev: "There are a lot of rumours, people are uninformed. But overall people are happy... Sorry if I am confusing you with contraversial information, but at least you can get the atmosphere..."

Oh yes: If you've liked my coverage, please consider bunking a vote my way in The Deutche-Welle International Weblog Awards, where this blog has been nominated in the category Best Journalistic Blog (English) - it'd be much appreciated.

Europhobia's Ukraine coverage continues here.

Ukraine crisis continued - international solution?

After the events of the last 48 hours covered here, here and here, time to step back and think a bit.

8:30pm: An anonymous comment to this blog provides a summarised translation of an article in Russian which gives a different perspective on this whole affair.

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 José 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 Ukraine’s 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, we’re not taking any actions. We want to see what the ultimate results are so we’re 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. They’ll 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.

10:10pm: TulipGirl reckons I've missed the mark (in a comment to this post) - and she should know:

"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.

10:40pm: A couple of alternative viewpoints have cropped up in comments over at TulipGirl's place and The Periscope:

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?

Europhobia's Ukraine crisis coverage continues here.

Ukraine crisis continued - violence approaching?

Following this and this...

3pm: Ukranian special police will defend the people if Russian troops attack, while Russia refuses to confirm or deny its troops' presence.

3:20pm: Another new site in support of Ukranian democracy (sorry - link corrected - should have pointed to the Ukranian Democracy site), plus more blogs weigh in:

Chrenkoff notes that the "Western European political class has done preciously little to help Eastern and Central Europe liberate itself in 1989/2001 (not to mention stop the war in its own Balkan backyard) - so why start now?"

Johann Norberg wonders "Where are the concerned European politicians who should condemn the fraud, and who could be with these crowds to show their support? And where are the "human shields"? A lot of young westerners were willing to risk their lives to stop the war on Iraq. Aren’t they willing to risk some discomfort to stop one of Europe’s biggest countries from slipping back to dictatorship?"

The Argus has a few bits and pieces.

LoboWalk finds some pictures of Yanukovich supporters and troops - the first I've seen. The fact that we've heard little from the other half of the population has been worrying me...

3:40pm: Oh joy, from Victor "According to, ex-president of Yugoslavia Slobodan Milosevic, who was accused of military crimes and genicide, greeted the Prime Minister of Ukraine Yanukovich on the 'victory in the elections'."

In more welcome support, President Kwasniewski of Poland - the birthplace of the Solidarity movement - is flying to Kiev to act as the EU's intermediary in talks, according to Bloomberg.

Disaster could yet be averted.

3:50pm: ten minutes from the reported time that the troops could move in...

Instapundit is providing a few more links, including to SueAndNotU, apparently an official election observer, who notes:

"the denizens of flashy cosmopolitan Kyiv may not be seen as representative of the demos writ large. On the other hand, we're talking about an enormous gathering, and sympathetic demonstrations in major cities across the country. The military's a wild card, they're armed to the teeth, and with an outgoing president, a president who supposedly won the election, and a president with rallying hordes that has taken the oath of office, they don't know who to take orders from. Chaos is not unimaginable."

4pm: Is it about to erupt?

Yushchenko calls on soldiers and militia to defend Ukrainian people:

"Thousands of people in epaulets, dozens of army units and organs of the Interior Ministry have already given their word. They’re all with the Ukrainian people. On the side of the people – the place of every honest person...

"The criminals want to send you to the barricades. There won’t be found there the sons of those who are pushing you into bloodshed. They’re running away. But we’re staying with you, we’re building a new Ukraine. The country needs your honesty, your experience, and your professionalism...

"You’re obliged in any case not to allow foreign armed forces onto Ukrainian territory...

"I appeal to all to whom the people have entrusted weapons – stand up for the defense of the country... The time has come to defend our relatives, our brothers and sisters, our children"

Plus, "Once Central Elections Commetee announces Yanukovych as a President -gangs, masked as Yushchenko supporters will start provocations on Maidan(Independance Square). After that emergency measures might be taken by authorities. Yanukovych headquarters has food which is enough till tommorow morning. No-one is alowed to step out of headquarters."

And students are being forced to take part in rallies in favour of Yanukovych.

The Ukranian Marines have declared for Yushchenko.

4:10pm: The Central Elections Committee is under immense pressure from all sides - whatever they announce, it could spark off violent protests... Apparently it was delayed by two hours as the agenda wasn't ready. So expect things to kick off c.6pm UK time now, as an announcement is expected from this meeting...

4:30pm: The Argus has some great pictures of riot police in the snow, with protestors putting flowers in their shields and on the barricades...

4:35pm: The Belmont Club has a round-up and a discussion of the implications going on in its comments section.

4:45pm: Discoshamen of Le Sabot Post-Moderne, now blogging from inside the maidan news agency, has worrying reports of violence breaking out:

"- Authorities have begun violent action against peaceful protesters near the Presidential Admin building. 2 buses of special ops police units drove up and have moved on the demonstrators.

- The tent city has now reached as far as the Central Department Store on Kreshatik Street.

- The pro-Yanukovych tent city seems to be bleeding people at a quick rate. They either can't take the cold, or the heat. :)

- Provocateurs planted an "explosive" device in our tent city. Snipers were called in.

- There are reports of tanks approaching the city. This is still unconfirmed, and I'm skeptical about this one."

4:50pm: obdymok has an eyewitness report:

"just saw thousands of berkut police from kharkhiv and donetsk, as well as thousands of coal miners, start walking in down lesi ukrainky blvd. in the direction of the central election headquarters.

lesi ukraini leads to bessarabsky rynok and the start of khreshchatyk, which is filled with about 100,000 yushchenko supporters.

i think a riot is imminent."

4:55pm: The BBC's ticker-tape is confirming Fistful's report from 4:30 that the Election Committee has declared Yanukovych the winner. I'd laid off posting that until I had confirmation - this could explain the reports in the last couple of updates...

5:00pm: Victor :

Yanukovych 49,46%
Yushchenko 45,61%
11 members of the Comission voted for this decision.

"the Supreme Court has refused to consider Yushchenko's plea about the falsification of the preliminary results of the elections.

"in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, people are being arrested for supporting Yushchenko... This is what is awaiting Ukrainian people, too. This is coming. All legal ways of resolving the situation have been exhausted.

"I just wonder how these bastards are going to run a country where all the people is so strongly against them? It's ridiculous."

The pro-Yushchenko demonstrators are marching on the Election Committee's headquarters... This is not good.

5:05pm: Maidan fears Civil War. All Kiev hospitals are on emergency footing.

It looks like it's only a matter of time now.

5:25pm: The Periscope has a round-up / update.

Neeka's back, with a report of the Election Committee's meeting:

"It could not be more humiliating. At some point, someone from the opposition complained that one of the pro-Yanukovych thugs hit someone from the opposition "between the legs."

The results are the following:

30,511,289 people took part in the election
488,022 of the bulletins were cancelled
15,093,691 (49.46%) people voted for Yanukovych
14,222,289 (46.61%) people voted for Yushchenko
707,284 (2.31%) people voted against both candidates

Yanukovych supporters got up and began applauding when the commission signed the final protocol. They were also shouting: Yanukovych! Yanukovych! Yanukovych! None of their faces except one were recognizable to me: Grigoriy Surkis, president of Dynamo Kyiv football team, was the only one I know. They were also waving those blue flags of Yanukovych campaign.

They discussed a few other issues but I wasn't listening. The opposition was protesting loudly from their corner but the commission members went on with their business, ignoring the protests.

At the very end, the opposition AND some journalists were shouting very loudly: Hanba! (Shame!) and Yushchenko!

And that was it."

6:40pm update: US Secretary of State Colin Powell has rejected the election results.

Bloomberg summarises the international implications of the US/Eu vs. Russia divisions over these elections.

Victor continues to report at The Periscope: " has published an audiorecording of phone talks of Yanukovich headquarters. The recording witnesses that Yanukovich headquarters totally controlled the the elections and vote count on both rounds. Absentee abllots, closed polls, voting at home, etc. Yanukovych team consistently achieved the necessary results. They knew the exact number of absentee ballots, off-the-poll votes, and other manipulations were compared to the results of the exit polls, thus they could plan a comparatively precise result in advance."

6:55pm: obdymok revises his earlier take - things may be calming down:

"always hate to get it wrong, but the drama of the central election commission (cec) session and the sight of the goons, thousands of them, walking towards the cec shocked me. that's what i thought, at least, when i watched the file by from my window on the 5th floor. perspective changed when i got a chance to get there and talk with them... ivan tavhen, an out-of-work 42-year old father of two from makieevka, donetsk oblast, said he was told it was a one day trip... "i'm not infatuated by yushchenko and can use an extra hr. 200," he said. they are going back to their buses now."

7:24pm: Sod it - might as well plug this... If you've liked my coverage, please consider voting for this blog in the BOBs, where it has been nominated as "Best Journalistic Blog (English). Thanks!

Meanwhile, Radio Free Europe ponders what next for Yushchenko.

7:50pm: The UK's Channel 4 News has live footage of bands playing in central Kiev - a party atmosphere. But just around the corner are a mass of police - the loyalties of which are unclear. Channel 4 News is also reporting that Yanukovych is calling for unity and talks. TulipGirl summarises the other new developments.

8:30pm: Continued here.

Ukraine crisis continued - Revolution or Invasion?

This follows on from this post, which I have been updating for the last two days, and has a rough chronology of the crisis, plus lots of links. Blogger is still playing up, but I will try and continue to cover the situation...

Overnight more allegations of a near-blackout on local Ukranian and Russian media, plus reports of Russian Spetsnaz troops in Ukraine, flown in to protect Russia's man, Yanukovych - but some of them have started backing the opposition leader, Yushchenko... An official US election observer has described the situation at "revolutionary".

More from Victor, a Ukranian giving updates from the Ukranian media over at The Periscope (which, like Fistful, also has an update):

"for several hours local residents of Vasyl'kov... are holding up buses with spetsnaz squads that are trying to leave the territory of the local military school. According to the reports from Vasyl'kov, the number of spetsnaz soldiers goes over 1000. According to the same reports, half of the spetsnaz soldiers are from Simferopol (the Crimea), the other half are Russian."

"people call from Donetsk and Lugansk and say about such pressure that I am horrified. I have never suspected we have anything like this in Ukraine. I want to go to sleep, but I can't tear myself away from the radio..."

"According to, spetsnaz squads that are guarding the building of the Presidential Administration, have declared about their support of Victor Yushchenko. This has been reported by a people's deputy Vladimir Filenko, - says obozrevatel correspondent.

"Most spetsnaz soldiers have put on orange orange ribbons. They behave friendly and tolerantly. Yushtshenko and Tymoshenko, surrounded with supporters, are trying to enter the building of the Presidential Administration."

"Two TV channels, Inter and 1st National, are now broadcasting speeches by pro-athoritarian local administrations. Yesterday, most journalists have refused to broadcast lies on these channels, and Ukraine couldn't hear any news on TV channels other than 5."

The Denver Post has emails from election observer, Colorado Congressman Bob Schaffer. He repeats the story about "Russian special forces in Ukrainian uniforms," plus states that "Rumors are now circulating that outgoing President Leonid Kuchma has fled his country and is now in St. Petersburg, Russia."

"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, dressed in Ukrainian garb...

"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...

"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."

Neeka, also on the scene, repeats these fears - "I don't understand how confrontation can be avoided. Maybe those Yanukovych guys will be shocked by the numbers and determination of their opponents and will deem it more reasonable to switch sides - but that's not too likely..."

TulipGirl also has an on-the-scene update - including reports of the number of people protesting in Ukraine's main towns.

Other blogs have picked up on the crisis now - let me know if there are more:

SCSU Scholars
Oleksa - another blogger from the region...

More to come...

10:30am: The periscope's world press round-up is worth a look. The media finally seem to have taken note of what's going on, and to give it a bit more of the coverage it deserves...

10:40: More people are chipping in at The Periscope with reports that students from Kharkiv's five largest universities have gone on a no-time-limit hunger-strike, and that "500 Yuschenko supporters from Cherkasy (region neighboring Kyiv) are piqueting local authorities' building urging them to remove road blocks on the Cherkasy-Kyiv highway and allow people to join the deminstrations in Kyiv."

Someone's started a blog devoted to the campaign with some good stuff on there already.

10:55: Histologion points out that this was all predicted two months ago.

The revolution will be Blogged - yep, the bloggosphere seems to be doing a decent job on this one. Technorati is now only an hour or so behind, and the number of sites covering the Ukraine has grown exponentially since this time yesterday.

Keep it up folks - the more attention there is on this, the less chance of violence - no one will risk it when in the media spotlight, and we can help focus that spotlight where it's needed.

11:15am: The White House statement plus a declaration from the international election observers - "Official observers and members of regional election commissions were removed after the first round of the presidential elections under the threat of use of a physical force."

11:25am: TulipGirl's gone orange!

11:35am: What would a Yanukovych mean for Ukraine? Well, according to Radio Free Europe's correspondent, not much would change: "law enforcement would... remain largely under the control of the presidential administration, "guidance" of the press would remain the norm, and the scandals of the Kuchma administration might go unpunished."

11:40am" More worrying news, courtesy of Vlad, who seems to have taken over Victor's duties at The Periscope:

"In his interview to Channel 5, Oleg Yeltsov, an independent journalist, stated he has reliable information that 800 soldiers of Russian spetsnaz arrived to Kiev to Vasykivs'kyy airport. They are changing into uniforms of Crimean spetsnaz. He also stated that they could be invited only by Leonid Kuchma, and called it a crime... Obozrevatel website reports that 5th Channel, one of the few independent TV channels, went off the air in the Crimea, Lugansk city and Lugansk Region."

Midday: Foreign Notes, another Kiev blog, has some good stuff:

"I think the jury's out on whether what Yuschenko and his supporters are doing will be enough to take power. I thought no two days ago, but now I am not so sure. Calls for negotiations and the military not all on board and some members even threatening retaliation are not signs of a secure power base. But we will have to see."

Meanwhile, Victor's back with a Livejournal page which seems to be receiving regular Ukranian updates from people on the scene, for those who can read it.

1:00pm: Yushchenko's people are apparently claiming to have information that two hours after the announcement of the election results (expected 2pm London time), "Russian spetsnaz troops are supposed to sweep the streets in the center of Kyiv and Independence Square. Lighting in the streets will be off, power will be shut down, pro-government newspapers are hastily purchasing power generators and candles and recalling their journalists back from the streets. Kuchma will leave the country (probably fly to StPetersburg for an announced meeting with Putin) and leave the country to Yanukovich for a while."

1:10pm: A good post on Ukraine past and future.

1:15pm: Unconfirmed reports that government buildings are being evacuated.

1:30pm: International implications

And Maidan ceases to maintain its objective approach and comes out for Yushchenko.

Where are the voices from the other 50% of the Ukranian population, the ones who voted for Yanukovich? It's got to the stage we need more balance to this... It can't be as simple as Yushchenko = good, Yanukovich = evil.

1:50pm: There are rumours that tanks will enter Kiev to put down the protests at 6pm Ukraine time - 4pm UK time. Two hours...

2pm: The Kyiv Post confirms troop movements and estimates the protestors numbering about one million. The official election result is expected any minute - could this kick off the violence, which has been threatened now for the last two days?

A pre-planned EU-Russia summit tomorrow will be dominated by Ukranian events.

2:10pm: Maidan also reports 6pm as the time the shit will hit the fan: "the outgoing power is preparing a provocation on the Independence Square (Maidan). At 6 o’clock (Kiyiv time) illumination on the Independence Square may be turned off and against indignant crowd the Russian special police units “Vytyaz’” may be used."

2:20pm: Foreign Notes also reports that "Russian spetznaz--Russian!-- forces special forces are there now with tanks and APCs on their way from other parts of the Ukraine. There should be an international outcry over this."

Is this an invasion, a revolution, a coup, a revolt, a protest, or a civil war?

2:40pm: A poster at The Periscope provides a transcript/translation of Yushchenko's speech in Independence Square:

"To the soliders, militiamen, commanders, chiefs of Armed Forces and police structures of Ukraine

I, Viktor Juschenko, appeal to you in the name of Ukrainian people, which elected me to President. Today our people stay on the central squares in the hundreds of cities. People demand to recognize their vote.

You eyewitness crime. It makes the government, which wants to keep in Ukraine the regime of lawlessness and corruption. Having stolen the votes of your siters and brothers, the power wants to cause the people to obedience.

But today, as always, acts oath, but not the criminal orders. Thousands of the people with epaulets have confirmed their vow, dozens of military units and departments of internal affairs. They are with Ukrainian people.

You should know: the criminals want to throw you to the barricades. But their sons will be absent there. They will run away. But we all have to stay here, we have to build new Ukraine. It needs your honesty, expirience and professionality.

I appeal to the chiefs of force structures - you are responsible for the order. You should deny using weapons against the people.

Also you must in any situation do not allow appearing of foreign military units in Ukraine.

Make responsible orders. To be silient means to connive crime.

Ukraine needs your bravery. To the victory of truth left one step. Do it together with the people. "

Europhobia updates continue here.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Breaking News: Military-backed coup in the Ukraine?

Tuesday note - I'll try and keep this post updated throughout the day

Note 2: It has been brought to my attention by Europhobia's Matt that "the use of the definitive article is wrong and quite insulting in Ukraine. 'The' Ukraine implies it's merely a region of Russia rather than a country in its own right. It's an linguistic invention of Tsarist Russia which was carried on under the Soviets." - Sorry for any insult caused - force of habit...

Note to newcomers via Instapundit etc.: As I write this note it is 4:10pm London time on Tuesday 23rd. I started this post 7pm London time on Monday 22nd. As from below this note, the post is made up of a succession of updates covering developments in Ukraine - and online coverage - over the last 21 hours, none of which have been re-edited since new information has come to light. I'll try and keep it going in the same style. I've kept it like this to maintain a chronology of events - the latest posts are about halfway down the page. Updates currently continue untl 00:20am (London time) on Wednesday 24th November.


This is not good. Very much breaking news, but the UK's Channel 4 News is currently showing live footage of opposition protests in Kiev, where supporters of pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko are contesting the results of the country's presidential elections.

According to official election observers, they have every right to feel cheated by the government of the pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who has already been congratulated by Russia's man in Kiev on becoming President, as the results are severely, deeply flawed.

Yushchenko's opposition have until 3am Kiev time to end their protest, or the government will send in the troops.

This is a country which still has nukes. Keep your eye on the news tonight. Possible updates here later if I get the chance.

I'll leave the latest trouble to hit Barroso's Commission until later.

Update: I've hunted around the net for the last ten minutes looking for the latest - nothing yet. TV and radio may yet have an edge over the interwebnets...

Update 2: Bits and pieces...

Reuters: "Ukraine's security bodies warned they would put down any lawlessness "quickly and firmly."

"We appeal to the organizers of mass protests to assume responsibility for their possible consequences," said a statement issued by the prosecutor general, the interior ministry and the security services."

The Kiev city council - along with two other cities - has refused to recognise the election results as valid.

"The government is ready for anything, even to spill blood"

Update 3: More on the background, but still no confirmation of the 3am deadline reported on Channel 4 News.

Update 4: Still no word on the 3am deadline. The BBC's 10 O'Clock News hasn't mentioned it, and is referring to events as a "revolt" by opposition supporters. I'm still waiting and dreading for the news of the tanks going in. If you've read The Czech Black Book's account of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia following the Prague Spring, you'll know the feeling.

Meanwhile, via Fistful, a couple of Ukranian blogs (in English) that may be worth keeping tabs on over the next few days:

Obdymok (last entry at time of writing): "maidan is still full of people and likely will be through the morning, unless the goons go to work. big drama. lots of rumors."

Neeka's Backlog (last entry at time of writing): "Lviv City Council has recognized Yushchenko as the legitimate President of Ukraine and will report to him from now on. That's way cool. I hope Kyiv City Council does the same - the sooner, the better. I had to spend some time at home, to recharge my camera - the battery keeps dying after slightly more than an hour of use and I can't replace it because I've no idea where they sell the battery I need here... I'm on my way back to Maidan Nezalezhnosti - reports say there're 100,000 people there now."

Update 6: Both the EU and the US have denounced the elections. Will they be able to unite to put pressure on Russia to withdraw its support for Yanukovych? As long as the "government" thinks Putin's got its back, the threat of violence against the opposition protestors will be ever present...

Update 7: Bruce George, a Labour MP heading the election inspectors in the Ukraine, speaking on Newsnight (garbled, partially paraphrased transcript - sorry): "There is tension here... it's very peaceful despite government threats that any action will be robust... I went to twelve polling stations and they were efficiently run... But my deputy was at a polling station when two thugs came in, supporters of the government, trying to close the polling station down... He showed me pictures of young women blocking the thugs from the polling station... One policeman was killed yesterday guarding a polling station... There was a report ten days ago from a police chief saying he was involved in shenanigans... He said that criminals had been hired to cause trouble."

I doubt I'll get any more tonight. Will try and do an update tomorrow, and get a bit more perspective on this. No violence has kicked off yet, but I can't help feeling it's a only matter of time. Others seem to share my worries. Newsnight had pictures of Cossacks who've been bussed in to deal with any trouble. It's just far, far too reminiscent of Poland in 1980, Czechoslovakia in 1968, Hungary in 1956... I don't like the look of this...

OK, final update: Fistful has an update.

Plus a bit more on-the-scene blogging from Blog de Connard, including photos of barracades being erected by the protestors: "If this is the best they can do for a barricade, I'm afraid that these guys might be in trouble. Rumor (spread by Yushenko himself during the rally) had police coming to bust heads between 2 and 3 AM. Sorry, but I'm not going to stick around to see if that actually happens. After seeinghow these average people (it's not just students in those tents) are putting themselves on the line to support democracy in their country and their personal freedom, I sincerely hope that it doesn't happen. All those people and this country definitely deserve better."

Blog de Connard also points in the direction of einsodernull, which has some more good links.

And also ta to Nick of What You Can Get Away With, who's noted in a comment on this site that the Wikipedia entry for the election is being kept up to date by some public-minded citizen of cyberspace, including a mention of the 3am deadline:

"22 Nov 2004 Yushchenko told thousands of supporters to stay in Kiev's main square overnight to keep a tent encampment safe from security forces who he said wanted to dismantle it.

"'We have received information that authorities want to destroy our tent city at 3 a.m. ... At two o'clock there should be more of us than now,' Yushchenko said, speaking to supporters at Kiev's Independence Square.

"'We must defend every chestnut tree, every tent. We must show to the authorities we are here for a long time.... There must be more and more of us here every hour.'"

And with this depressing and worrying news, to bed.

Tuesday morning update: As has been noted in comments to this post, thankfully no violence has yet kicked off. Yushchenko has called for continuing protests, and denounced the result as a "total falsification". At the same time, the US' official observer, Senator Richard Lugar, has alleged "concerted and forceful" fraud.

Meanwhile the Ukranian Diaspora has apparently issued a statement and hailed Yushchenko as the legitimate winner:

"Among the violations we include such primitive ones as proxy voting, procurement of more than one ballot by some voters, attempts to stuff the ballot box by representatives of the local elections commissions or their friends, the so called carousel, flagrant bribing, etc. More significant were events such as suggesting a vote for candidate Yanukovich by the local elections commissions, remitting invites to vote with a pamphlet about candidate Yanukovich, personal advice on how to vote given by local election commission members, directors of establishments of employment and others in positions of influence. The most severe results were due to an egregious abuse by candidate Yanukovich of administrative state resources, not only from the government of Ukraine but also from non-democratic foreign governments, i.e. Russia and the not-recognized Transdniester. Additionally, we mention detainments and attempts to frighten Yushchenko’s monitors."

And Neeka has more: "Underneath our window on Khreshchatyk, I saw a bunch of guys, six or seven, all with orange ribbons and stuff, and they were pushing one of those very very very heavy benches lined up at the alley there. They dragged it away, towards where the barricades are. After they were gone, I suddenly realized that it was the only bench left standing there (there used to be quite a lot, I swear). As I said, those benches are terribly heavy and must be very useful for street riots..."

Some analysis is starting up online. There's the conflict of US / Russian Ukranian interests, and a bit more about the global context:

"Ukraine has been targeted as an integral piece of the world puzzle by more than one foreign power, not all of them in the east. The fact is that these people still believe in their right to independence. They still believe in their right to resist. As long as these beliefs remain intact, the spirit of these people will be long in the breaking, no matter the tribe of the oppressor... Russia can simply not rebuild any sort of an empire without Ukraine, and will impose her own expansionist designs… her lecherous love… her supposed affection for her old Orthodox ally, irrespective of the will of the people."

Meanwhile, via The Periscope, a news portal which might prove useful to keep tabs on the situation.

Update: The Times has a leader on the significance of the Ukraine:

Yushchenko's "supporters have promised to remain on the streets until victory is theirs, while the Government has brought in water cannons and armed police and given a warning that it will not tolerate “revolution”. The scene is set for a bloody confrontation, with repercussions across Europe and a sharp worsening of relations between Russia and the West."

Meanwhile, more supporters keep arriving.

Here is a handy minute-by-minute timeline which seems still to be updating.

Update: TulipGirl has some good links, including a webcam from central Kiev.

Nick Barlow puts this in some kind of context.

The Kyiv Post (in English) seems to be back online and updating fairly regularly. It reports that an emergency session of parliament has been called by the opposition to annul the declared results of the election:

"If the parliament doesn't take action to solve the crisis, 'we will have no choice but to block roads, airports, seize city halls,' said Yuliya Tymoshenko, a Yushchenko ally."

The Kyiv Post also compares the events in Ukraine to those in Georgia last year, and is reporting that Yushchenko is calling for the international community to support him.

Blogger seems to be acting up today - I'll continue to update when I get the chance and it lets me. Currently 12:45pm London time, and the standoff continues...

Update: The Guardian quotes British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw: "From where I stand now, it is very difficult to argue that this was a free and fair election... The evidence suggests that this was neither a free nor a fair election."

It also has some photos of the protests and a good overview.

Update: More from A Fistful of Euros, including the news that - despite what the EU and US are saying - Russia is maintaining that the elections were "transparent, legitimate and free".

Update: TulipGirl reproduces in full an article by ukranian novelist Oksana Zabushko about the chaos and growth of opposition solidarity:

"A special term has come into use -- 'The Orange Revolution.' It looks like people have dragged all shades of orange, from yellow to vermilion, out of their wardrobes and adorned themselves with them simultaneously -- vests and sweaters, scarves and purses, coats and umbrellas. Orange ribbons flutter everywhere -- on trees, fences, lanterns, and cabs. Drivers joyfully beep to each other, and pedestrians (traffic police included!) salute them with smiles and raised fists. It feels like the capital of three million has been transformed into a sea of brotherly love! The windows of shops are lavishly decorated with things orange. Among my favorites is the stunt of my neighborhood coffee shop -- its windows glow with pyramids of oranges!"

Meanwhile, Neeka reports that the parliamentary meeting has started - although apparently with little or no representation from the government side...

Update: A petition has been started by a group of "concerned Americans" (seemingly Ukranian ex-pat academics in the States), to be sent to President Bush later today, asking that he does "everything diplomatically possible to have the Ukrainian government arrange for an honest RECOUNT in the presence of international observers."

But if reports are to be believed, a recount won't do it - the entire election needs to be run again. Which means even more opportunity for chaos, violence and discontent... Especially if Georgian analyst Gocha Tskitishvili is to be believed (quoted on Yahoo News):

"There is no such unity in Ukraine as there was in Georgia one year ago. Everyone in Georgia was in support of revolution and against the president. Ukraine is divided inside -- there is no such unity there."

Update: Airstrip One is sceptical, noting that "this is less a battle about democracy and more about Ukraine's alignment... don't believe some of the stuff that will come out about Yanukovych being the real democrat. It's about as believable as the pro-Mugabe guff that we sometimes come across."

Rising Hegemon, like a few others, spots some irony. Others aren't as amused by the comparisons.

Update: The US seems to be waking up to the situation a bit more, and coverage will no doubt increase in the online community now that Instapundit has flagged the situation (linking here as well - ta!). National Review Online also has a good summary article, which points out a worryingly realistic outcome:

"a Serbia- or Georgia style solution to Ukraine's disputed elections requires not only energetic street protests, but key elements of the business community to conclude that a Yanukovych presidency would irreparably damage its interests and for large numbers of the military and security services to refuse to put down civil disobedience. And in a country the size and complexity of Ukraine, whose political divisions tend to mirror America's "red/blue state" divides more than the relative homogeneity of small countries like Serbia or Georgia, a successful "Chestnut Revolution" requires voters not only in the west but in many parts of central and eastern Ukraine to believe that they have been robbed of their free choice. Those who cite Serbia-2000 should remember that vocal protests against Slobodan Milosevic in 1996 and 1992 failed to unseat the Serbian leader; what may emerge now in Ukraine is an uneasy truce between opposition-dominated local governments in the west and a central government headed by Yanukovych."

4:25pm Update: According to some reports, Yushchenko has sworn an oath of presidency in the Ukranian parliament; others are calling for him to stand down; Yushchenko has responded by accusing current President Kuchma and his opponent, Prime Minister Yanukovych, of driving the country towards civil war. But it's Yushchenko's supporters who are on the streets...

4:40pm Update: The Kyiv Post has a report on the parliamentary meeting, and Yushchenko's "symbolic" oath - "We have two choices: either the answer will be given by the parliament, or the streets will give an answer."

In response, Parliament's Speaker, Volodymyr Litvyn, has called for calm: "All political forces should negotiate and solve the situation without blood... The activities of politicians and the government... have divided society and brought people into to the streets... Today there is a danger of activities moving beyond control."

It looks less and less promising...

4:55pm: A good overview of the lack of media coverage thus far via einsodernull and a comment to Neeka's last post. Why hasn't this been picked up on properly? Is it the timezone issue? It kicked off too late yesterday to make most European and US newspaper deadlines - will this (just about understandable) oversight be rectified for tomorrow's papers? Have the TV news channels started to improve their coverage yet?

5:20pm: Apparently outgoing President Kuchma has said that the executive cannot interfere with elections. Does this rule out intervention by the security services? If so, how can order be restored without external intervention from the international community? And which part of the international community will win out - the US/EU pro-Yushchenko interest, or the Russian pro-Yanukovych lobby?

8pm Update: Sorry, Blogger's locked me out for the last couple of hours, and things are still happening...

It's now snowing in Kiev, and beginning to kick off big-style, over 24 hours after I first started posting. It seems to have turned into a full-scale popular revolt, and there are reports (below) that the Presidential compound may have been taken over by Yushchenko and his supporters.

Over at The Periscope, Viktor Katolyk, a site visitor from Kiev, is posting translations from Ukranian radio (trackback)and other on-the-scene updates in the comments section, providing regular, up-to-date commentary. They've just added a new post for him to continue in (trackback). Some of Viktor's comments (condensed) to fill in the gap while I've been locked out:

"A column of provokators is moving towards the center of Kiev. They also wear orange stripes on their arms, but they say they are going to defent Yanukovych... The coulumn is around 1000 people.

"Yushchenko's headquarters receive a lot of reports that an attempt to kill Victor Yuschenko are being prepared.

"Pro-Yanukovich sources don't mention ANYTHING about the events in Kiev and big cities of Ukraine, which leaves people in cities of eastern Ukraine totally uninformed... News journalists have refused to tell lies from the screens, and the TV channels which are controlled by Kuchma and Yanukovych don't give any news about these events at all.

"Policemen in Lviv (the biggest city in the Western Ukraine) is wearing orange bands. Police is with the people.

"A column of people dressed in black, total 300 people, talking foul language moves around Kiev. They are not wearing orange. One said they come from Donetsk.

"The protesters in the center of Kiev have started to move towards the residence of the President. It is planned that Yushchenko will occupy the room of the President of Ukraine.

"According to unconfirmed data, 26 trains with armed people left Donetsk for Kiev.

"Accoring to a phone call from Dniepropetrovsk (Eastern Ukraine) in the center of the city there is a meeting of about 150 thousand people.

"Unconfirmed information: panic in the presidential administration. Officers are trying to take safes and stuff from the offices.

"Berkut squads have surrounded the presidential administration and announced total mobilization. The put on masks, shields, helms. Another Berkut squad is getting prepared in the courtyard of the presidential administration. The entrances are blocked with 5 trucks loaded with sand.

"According to the news from the radio, the presidential administration has given up and Victor Yushchenko has entered the building!

"According to the radio, another dozen of smaller cities (up to 100 000 population) have declared that they recognize Yushchenko as their President."

8:20pm: Via TulipGirl, another couple of reports from the scene: "We've spent the day surrounding the Parliament building. Unfortunately, the Communists have kept on the side, and so there was no quorum to overturn the vote... The Prime Minister threatened a crackdown this afternoon in a press conference. We'll have to see. I think there are probably too many journalists still paying attention for him to hit us tonight. I did see a column of thugs from Donetsk in pseudo-military garb and Yanukovych banners marching in the Arsenal District on the drive to Parliament, which is not a good sign." (trackback)

Meanwhile, Interfax's regularly-updated timeline reports that Yushchenko has created a "Coordination Council" to "protect the Constitution" - he's certainly pandering to his Western supporters...

Also, the Interior Ministry is apparently shipping police to Kiev from the regions, and, most worryingly, Russia's Vladimir Putin seems to be backing the initially-declared result in favour of Yanukovych, by stating that only the Yanukovych-controlled Election Committee can decide who wins...

8:40pm: More from Viktor over ath The Periscope - "According to the 5th channel (TV), the information that Yushchenko entered the Presidential Administration is untrue. Yushchenko did not approach the building. Journalists report that a big group of protesters have crossed the first line of policemen, but then were cut off from the rest of the people."

Plus the Bloggosphere seems to be catching up, although it's hard to tell as Technorati has been playing up all day.

As Viktor said earlier on The Periscope, as long as the profile of this is kept high, it is unlikely that the government will send in the troops. Do your stuff, people.

8:50pm: TulipGirl links to more pictures.

8:55: More from Viktor at The Periscope - "According to the radio, only 2 major cities didn't have demonstrations in support of Yushchenko - Donetsk and Lugansk." He's also reporting demonstrations in the US, UK and Poland.

The BBC have finally made the Ukraine crisis their main story on the news site. About time...

9;00pm: The BBC have also got a comments section up.

9:15: According to Viktor, "the President of Georgia M. Saakashvili has wished victory to the Ukrainian People. He was speaking Ukrainian."

9:20: Shades of Czechoslovakia in 1968 again - let's hope it doesn't turn out the same way (again via Viktor Katolyk): "Ukrainian MPs that came with the peolple to the Presidential Administration, are negotiating with the Police. People decorate steel shields around the building with flowers. Julia Tymoshenko has climbed one of the trucks and called the police to let the demonstrators in and take the side of the Ukrainian people."

9:50pm: Blogger's cutting in and out again - sorry...

Viktor has some worrying (but as yet unconfirmed) news: "According to radio news (Radio Era), the Ukrainian police that surrounds the Presidential Administration has told the demonstrators that the building is full of Russian Spetsnaz who are dressed into ukrainian uniform and were ordered to kill demonstrators if they enter the bulding."

I wouldn't put it past Russia to send in "peacekeeping" troops to "preserve order", but disguised as Ukranians? This sounds far too Cold War to be true... I hope...

10:00pm: The Periscope has an update - a roundup of the distinct lack of news coverage. Looks like the good old BBC is the only one to be interested in this story...

Also, Fistful is asking for reports from Ukranian embassies around the world - anyone seen any protests outside the country?

10:10pm: The Jerusalem Post gives an indication of where all those votes for Yanukovich have come from - people afraid of the rise of Ukranian nationalism which seems to be identified with Yuschenko.

Also, CBC has a report from an official election observer.

10:15pm: Le Monde has an interesting Ukranian Q&A (in French).

The BBC's Ten O'Clock News has just reported that opposition leaders have called for their supporters to go home, as negotiations have been promised for tomorrow.

10:25pm: The Guardian has an Associated Press report about Ukranian diplomats speaking out at the Ukranian Embassy in Washington DC: "Guided by our conscience, our professional pride and our oath of loyalty to serve the Ukrainian state we express our solidarity with the voice of the Ukrainian people."

The Guardian also mentions a White House statement. MosNews has more: "'The United States is deeply disturbed by extensive and credible indications of fraud committed in the Ukrainian presidential election,' White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan was quoted by the agency as saying. '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. The government bears a special responsibility not to use or incite violence.'"

10:35: Victor's back with news that "The authorities want to close the only two TV channels that broadcast what is happening in relation to the post-election events."

10:40: Reports of sections of the army and police declaring allegiance to Yushchenko...

Also - ex-Czech President, playwright, and all-round hero of the struggle against the USSR Vaclav Havel has sent his support: "Allow me to greet you in these dramatic days when the destiny of your country is being decided for decades ahead. You have its future in your hands. All trustworthy organizations, both local and international, agree that your demands are just. That is why I wish you strength, perseverance, courage and good fortune with your decisions."

11:30pm: New reports from Yushchenko's people that President Kuchma will transfer his powers to Yushchenko in the morning. No confirmation yet. It sounds unlikely - a declaration for Yushchenko would, by the sound of things, simply get Yanukovich's supporters out on the streets in the place of the current protestors - neither side has a clear democratic mandate. How this can be resolved peacefully - at least without foreign intervention - remains unclear.

11:45pm: AllAboutLatvia has a good piece comparing US and European coverage of the Ukranian crisis

Meanwhile Viktor reports that "Yushchenko's headquarters has information from reliable sources that the authorities are planning to sweep the tent town in the center of Kiev with tear-gas, water jets, and other means."

We're back to where we were yesterday...

11:50pm: Technorati is still six hours behind, but a few interesting blog posts have appeared - Yushchenko, Rumsfeld and Iraq via Daniel Brett and Explaining Ukraine via Coming Anarchy are both worth a look.

11:55pm: Viktor reports that "the ministry of internal affairs of Ukraine have arrested two russian citizens in one of Kiev hotels. They are suspected in preparing an assault on Victor Yushchenko. They had a plan of the assault and weapons."

It's getting late - bed soon... I have to work tomorrow...

Midnight: God damn, Yushchenko wins the prize for the best-looking supporter...

00:05am: Viktor is keeping tabs on Ukranian television as well - "Yanukovich supporters are also setting up tents in the center of Kiev. My wife is watching the TV and says they are all drunk."

00:20am: A final one before bed - again via Viktor - "Kharkiv city council has addressed the Ukrainian Parliament. The deputies stated: 'In view of the disturbing information from Kiev where a small group of carpet-baggers is trying to capture power in the country accross the Constitution and laws; in view of the fact that these venturers called Kiev youth to go out into the streets and exposed inexperienced people's health to danger; in view of the fact tha Kiev authorities and Kiev city council actually supported the riot against the legitimate authorities; we believe that Kiev today can't be the capital of our country.'"

This will probably get worse before it gets better.

Wednesday morning update: I'm continuing this post here.

Where next for democracy?

The New Republic analyses potential Democrat candidates for the 2008 elections (registration required, or try BugMeNot). Dismissing the ones who've had a lot of speculation already – the likes of John Edwards, Howard Dean, Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama – they've tried to think laterally, and so come up with some interesting (and decidedly obscure for non-Americans) choices: Phil Bredesen, Mike Easley, Kathleen Sebelius, Jim Doyle, Ed Rendell, Dick Durbin, Phil Angelides, Jennifer Granholm, Mark Warner and Tom Vilsack.

Of these, Phil Bredesen already has his fans, and even the mighty Daily Kos has been impressed by Mark Warner. Perhaps there's hope for the Dems yet.

But this got me thinking. Where the hell are the Tories going to go after Michael Howard's near inevitable defeat next year? Fans of Boris Johnson know full well that he will never be leader of the party, and most of the Shadow Cabinet are going to be too sullied with the aftermath of Duncan-Smith and Howard to gain any credibility. David Davis? Popular with the party, but then so was Duncan-Smith - and the major need is to attract people who aren't "natural" Tory voters. David Cameron? Too ex-public schoolboy – exactly the image they need to shake. Oliver Letwin? Too much of a tit and too prone to saying stupid things at precisely the wrong moment, despite being very bright. David Willetts? Freak. Tim Yeo? Nice chap in person, but no public credibility. Caroline Spellman or Theresa May? Not enough like Maggie for them to risk another woman for a while. John Redwood? Not a hope in hell. Nicholas Soames or Michael Ancram, likewise - even though Ancram has his plus points. David Maclean? Too scary and unknown. Tim Collins? Dr Who fan – need I say more?

From the current Shadow Cabinet I'd go for the zero-profile Andrew Lansley, the Shadow Secretary of State for Health, of whom no one's ever heard. State school educated, media experience (vital these days, as we all know), and a former Civil Servant. He looks like a middle manager of a provincial supplies company, so could gain a George W Bush-style "everyman" appeal. Or how about Liam Fox? Nice chap, military experience, and a GP - and considering the state of the NHS it'd be quite handy having someone in charge who knows what they're talking about.

Then there's the rest of the buggers. In amongst this there are still some big names, but the obvious choices - Ken Clarke and Michael Portillo - have ruled themselves out after repeated rejections by the party faithful, and the pipedream hope of some Tories of a return for William Hague seems unlikely - at least within the next ten years or so. Or should they go for lesser names, like Crispin Blunt, John Bercow, or the young blood likes of Jonathan Djangoly or Mark Prisk? Or what about Malcolm Rifkind - soon to return in Portillo's utterly safe Kensington and Chelsea seat after seven years in the political wilderness? Experienced, largely untainted by the successive disasters of the post-1997 years, and still popular with the party faithful.

But the trouble with almost all of these people is that they have done little or nothing to suggest they can appeal to non-Tories, and a fair few would also have trouble winning over the party faithful which, until they can remove the vote from the ordinary members which resulted in the Duncan-Smith debacle, will be vital.

The average Conservative party member doesn't want to see the party head for the centre, but to the right. This is precisely why they opted for the massive electoral liability that was Iain Duncan-Smith over the more centrist, politically experienced and realistic Clarke and Portillo. These are the people who are tempted by the UKIP. But at heart all they want is want a tough stance on Europe (mostly while remaining part of the EU), the cutting back of immigration and crime, a curtailing of government micro-management, and support for small businesses. Perhaps Alan Duncan might be the way forward - openly gay, so could win over the centrist liberal vote, good-looking on camera, in favour of small government, comes across quite well, and has kept a fairly low profile recently.

Where next for the Tories? They were once the natural party of government and most of the country was largely sympathetic to their emphaisis on the individual. This is the party of Disraeli, one of the finest politicians this country has produced. In this age of increasing class divides and the collapse of the post-1945 welfare state as benefits, pensions and the NHS become increasingly chaotic and inefficient, a return to Disraeli's rhetoric about "two nations" may well be needed. The Democracts tried it briefly in the run-up to the Presidential election, but seemed not to push it that hard, instead foolishly focussing on foreign policy.

It's the economy, stupid - and it always is. Gordon Brown looks to be gettig himself into trouble, increasing regulations from both Westminster and Brussels are causing small businesses immense harm, and the Tories need to step into the breach to explain to a nation which doesn't really understand the economy precisely how this is going to damage their interests, and present clear and simple alternatives.

But to be honest, for the life of me I can't see an easy route back to power for the Conservative party. We need them - or a decent alternative - or we are going to be stuck with a Labour government, which most people now distrust and dislike, for the forseeable future. But there's currently no alternative, the Tories are as disliked as they ever were under Thatcher, they seem to have no active policies, hardly anyone in the 18-50 age bracket seems to be planning on voting for them, and this lack of a viable opposition can only be bad for democracy.

With a General Election now only six months away (most likely), for the first time since I have been eligable to vote I am seriously considering not bothering. After all, why vote for someone you don't believe in?

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