Civil War Brewing in Ukraine?

I’ve got a few guys here working with me who are from the Ukraine, and there’s a bit of a buzz about the office regarding a possible civil war kicking off in the Ukraine. Tens of thousands of protesters have gathered in the capital Kiev to express outrage at what is widely considered to be a fixed election. My friends are saying that their folks back home are reporting that there are possibly a million people demonstrating around the clock all over the country, but that it is hard to say because the state owned television is not reporting the figures or showing pictures of the event. They also say that the government has cut off the train routes into the capital to prevent more protesters from arriving.

The election is widely suspected to have been rigged. The US and Europe have condemned it, and even Putin, whose pro-Russian candidate reportedly won the election, appears to have backed down a little from his earlier congratulations. The opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, has declared himself the new president, and the tens of thousands of protesters in the capital support him. The opposition have claimed that that all kinds of dirty tricks have been used to fix the election, including shipping in thousands of absentee voters to vote repeatedly for the pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych.

There have also been suspicions raised on the numbers of voters turning out in regions loyal to the pro-Russian Yanukovych. In eastern districts turn-outs of nearly 100% were recorded, which is almost unheard of in any democratic election, especially in Ukraine. When this election is a simple first-past-the-post referendum, such cheating would have a devastating effect. The opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko also claims that many of the ballot boxes in his heartland in the West of the country were mysteriously burned. Independent observers, who conducted exit polls that showed the opposition leader with a seemingly unsurmountable 11 point lead, have refused to authenticate Yanukovych’s unlikely 14 point swing victory.

Civil war is not an impossibility as the country is quite diametrically opposed. Unlike in America, where support for Bush was marginally higher in the south than the north, in Ukraine the differences are marked. The support for the pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko is extremely high, with the capital Kiev registering 80% support, and some of the other regions higher still. In the east the people are much more aligned to the Russians, often considering themselves to be Russians, and so are heavily behind the pro-Russian Yanukovych. It’s not impossible that part of the reason they shut down the trains to the city is because of the potential for clashes between the two sets of supporters.

Currently it is peaceful, but if the protesters don’t get their way, and have another independeltly operated election, then there might be trouble yet.

There is also the Russian factor. Rumors are that Russian troups are moving in, wearing Ukrainian uniforms. What is known is that the the pro Russian candidate is busing in hired muscle to counteract the protesters.

Also, several cities, and government officials are refusing to recognize Yanukovych, such as the capital. Tent cities are being built to protest the

Link to webcam in the capital.

What interesting times.

no wonder the election is messed up. Viktor Yushchenko vs. Viktor Yanukovych? that’s very confusing.

I fear what follows, if not outright civil war, is a development towards the Belarussian situation. Of course, I don’t think there’s strongman of Lukashenko’s calibre in the Ukraine, which might make that impossible. In which case something similar to Russia, where Putin’s and his cohorts have grown to enormous power by… different means. I guess in Ukraine it would be more draconic. Or at least better reported.
Either way, it’s a troubling development in the three largest “European” former Soviet states, Belarussia, Russia and Ukraine moving away from democracy and liberty. The long-term effects will be devastating, and it’s a bit depressive that the hope I have is mostly centered on the misery being contained.

It actually stunned me when Powell came out and announced that the U.S. didn’t recognise the results of the election. Given Bush’s pat-on-the-back attitude toward Putin on Chechnya and his consolidation of domestic power actually finding the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the guy wasn’t something I saw coming. On the other hand, by the time Powell had opened his mouth much of the rest of the world was already condemning the election which rather forced the nation Bush and Co. feels is the banner carrier of democracy throughout the world to actually put up or shut up. Given that only Russia supports the election results it was a diplomatic no brainer. Which still didn’t keep me from being surprised that they got it right for a change.

I won’t pretend to have any special insights about this situation but experts on the News Hour make it sound like civil war is quite possible. Putin’s stalking horse has much of the army behind him but the navy, for what that’s worth, and many police and internal security units seem to be defecting to the challenger. And I also heard them mention that units of Russian special forces are being flown in but no mention of them switching to Ukrainian uniforms. The experts also mentioned that skinheads and other thugs from the ‘winner’s’ part of the country are entering Kiev to act as provocateurs and give that city’s security forces an excuse to forcibly break up the peaceful protests.

Yeah, me too. First thing I’ve been honestly proud of these guys for. They even had some AEI types talking about how the PM stole the election.

Did the Ukraine finally cough up its nukes? How did that all work out? I forget.

Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons. It used to be a major producer, and the old Soviet regime had a huge underground missile factory in Donetsk, but it’s all closed down now.

I see. I guess I’ve got MGS3 on the brain these days.

The European Union announced today that it doesn’t recognise the election results either. Probably a bit sooner than they would have liked, too.

Russia’s gonna have to back down.

That means someone’s gonna pay the price. Russians never concede anything without meting out punishment.

I wouldn’t want to live in the Ukraine right now.

It’s like the Twilight Zone version of Florida 2000:

Ukraine’s Supreme Court on Thursday prohibited making the results of the nation’s disputed presidential election official until it considers an appeal, Ukrainian news agencies reported.

The decision could be a significant boost to protesters thronging the capital since Sunday’s run-off, which they claim cheated opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko of victory.

Of course, just to get the flames burning, I guess it is possible some intelligence agency or similar of the west made sure the pre-election polls gave such good results for the pro-west candidate, so they could challenge and undermine the Russian-inclined candidate.

Not terribly likely, though :)

No, it isn’t. Mainly because I don’t think anyone in the west cares enough to do anything of the sort. The US in particular seems quite comfortable cozying up to the autocrats in central asia.

Goddamnit, man, we’re trying to have a warm and fuzzy here while the US isn’t the obvious public enemy number 1 at stake in the discussion.

Seems Russia, China, Belarussia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzystan have now recognised the election. It’s the cold war all over again, except of course that Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia all side with the west as part of the EU. I also noticed that those countries seem to have become part of the west as popular discourse, which is heartening.
A private tv-channel “loyal to the regime” started reporting about the opposition’s protests this morning.

Interestingly all the guys I work with are from the East, which explains why they always said they were from “Russia… well Ukraine” whenever I asked them where they were from. They are ethnically Russian, speak Russian, but support the opposition Ukrainian guy Yevschenko. I guess that may be because they consider themselves more Western than old Russian.

Seems Russia, China, Belarussia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzystan have now recognised the election. It’s the cold war all over again, except of course that Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia all side with the west as part of the EU.

It’s fascinating to see all the democracies uniformly refuting the election, while all the autocracies uniformly endorse it. It really could be 1956 as far as the blocs go. Good thing the autocratic bloc has shrunk considerably.

I’m not too surprised by the lack of violence thus far. Georgia was only the most recent example of a “velvet revolution” against a sitting government that didn’t want to quit. The nice thing about having all those former Soviet/Warsaw Pact democracies is that a pretty standard model has now developed for “people power” uprisings. If recent history is any guide, the Moscow-aligned forces will see that the writing is on the wall, and will quietly hand Ukraine over to the people.


Ok, this is probably waaaay too melodramatic a thread for this stuff, but I couldn’t find a more recent one in my cursory search under “Kiev.” Maybe Ukraine? Anyhow.

With riots escalating and death tolls mounting, what’s the prognosis? Is there anything here, or will it blow over soon?

I think it blows over. Russian influence is too great, and EU indifference the same.