Something rare and wonderful is happening in the Ukraine.
After a decade of Russian domination of its politics, the breadbasket of the old Soviet Union is beginning to find its own voice. The people have not only taken to the streets, but in tactics reminiscent of the best of the peaceful demonstrations in Eastern Europe leading up to the fall of communism, they have taken over key strategic locations in that nation’s capitol, Kiev:
1. The reformers have occupied not only the old Lenin Library, but also the first floor of the mayor’s offices, and the Oktabarskaya Palace. This has all been done legally, with the support of the mayor of Kiev, Omelchenko. He’s thrown in with us unreservedly, which is a huge boost.
2. There are small delegations from several foreign countries here supporting us. The Georgians are here in force, as well as the Belorussians—two countries which have suffered from similar governance to Ukraine’s. A mad Irishman was running around chanting this evening, and I saw an African man carrying his national flag. A Bangladeshi girl shared a table with us at McDonald’s tonight. (HT: Powerline)
Outside of Poland, there has been no sadder national story on the European continent than that of an independent Ukraine. Occupied at one time or another by Poland, Lithuania, Austria under the Hapsburgs, and finally Stalin’s Russia, the fiercely nationalistic Ukrainians have suffered one barbarity after another including the deliberate starvation of more than 5 million of its extremely productive peasant class in the early 1930’s.
Russia has always viewed the Ukraine as a buffer state, protecting it from invasion first from Poland in the 18th and 19th centuries and later Germany. And now, Russian President Vladimir Putin is going to have to learn to let go.
The recent elections in which reformist candidate Viktor Yushchenko ran on a pro-nationalistic platform was apparently rigged in favor of Mr. Putin’s hand picked choice Viktor Yanukovych. In today’s WA Times the story makes clear that even the Ukrainian courts (not especially known for their independence) may be siding with the reformists:
“The Supreme Court stopped the Central Election Commission from publishing the results of the vote until the opposition’s legal challenges are reviewed.”
Court spokeswoman Liana Shlyaposhnikova said the appeal would be considered on Monday. “This is only the beginning,” a triumphant opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko told a crowd of 100,000 people gathered in downtown Kiev in praising the court’s decision.”
The opposition has charged that massive vote fraud occurred, especially in the Russian dominated southern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, which largely handed Mr. Yanukovych a victory.
The United States and European Union have refused to recognize the election results, charging that the election did not conform to international standards.
President Putin has warned the west to stay out of the controversy. This may be difficult due to the Ukraine’s status as a friend of NATO.
“I don’t want my children to be ashamed of me when they ask me if I did something, and I didn’t,” said Volodymyr Petrenko, the owner of a BMW repair shop who volunteered his time to the opposition to maintain security on the plaza. “I’ve been here since Sunday. Now my friends are also here.”
With that kind of attitude on the part of the protestors, a showdown may be coming. And while Putin has made noises about allowing the Ukrainian people and courts to settle the election dispute, it remains to be seen whether Putin will actually allow a government as independent-minded as Mr. Yushchenko’s reformist party. No troop movements from Russia have been reported as yet and apparently, even some Ukrainian security forces may be on the side of the protestors:
“Demonstrations have so far been peaceful. Mr. Yushchenko seemed to win a major victory yesterday, when a number of officers from Ukraine’s security services, heirs of the Soviet KGB, appeared before demonstrators, pledging their support and calling on their colleagues to be restrained.”
President Putin is in a very difficult position. His government is becoming more and more authoritarian as he seeks to consolidate power in order to deal with Russia’s massive economic, social, and security problems. On the other hand, Putin desperately needs western assistance to modernize his country’s infrastructure and keep the flow of capital coming into his creaking economy. He can’t afford to alienate the west. Can he afford a truly independent Ukraine?
Before it’s over, Putin will probably have to let go of the Ukraine. But I would guess it won’t happen before he makes an effort to intimidate the protestors and the west into capitulating.
In the immortal words of Bart Mancuso, sub Captain in “The Hunt for Red October:”
“The hard part about playing chicken is knowin’ when to flinch.”
Let’s hope Putin knows the movie.
UPDATE: MOSCOW MOONBATS
Looks like the Russians have their own moonbats they have to keep their eye on.
Chrenkoff reports on some truly weird tin foil beanie wearers in Mother Russia:
“Zbigniew Brzezinski [President Carter’s Polish-born National Security Adviser and nowadays an international affairs pundit], his sons, and the Polish government have created an Ukrainian opposition leader and promoted Yushchenko into that role, in order to prevent further integration of the European Union!”
“So says, Sergei Markov, well-known political scientists and director of the Institute of Political Studies in Moscow.”
What makes this less than funny is that evidently, Comrade Markov’s institute is closely allied with Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to Arthur:
” This post describes the Institute of Political Studies as “a Moscow think-tank closely linked with the Putin administration,” and this one describes Sergei Markov as “a man who reportedly enjoys close connections with the Kremlin.” Markov, by the way, was one of the paid Russian advisors on the campaign team of Viktor Yanukovych, the Moscow-backed “winner” of the Ukrainian presidential election.”
Chrenkoff is rightly concerned about the possibility that this type of conspiracy mongering that was prevelant during the old Soviet regime may indeed be the start of something ominous in our relationship with Putin’s Russia. Let’s hope that the explanation is something more mundane…like moonbats giving voice to their rantings.
Something rare and wonderful is happening in the Ukraine.