I don’t have time to provide up to the minute coverage of the Belarusian elections. There are many places you can go to get it and they all do a much better job than I can. Robert Mayer at Publius Pundit has updates as well as links to find blog updates. As mentioned before br23 blog is a good place to go. One can always do a Google news search for Belarus. Hundreds of articles are listed there. And to repeat, RFE/RL has special coverage of the elections. I find the NY Times piece on the Belarusian countryside and why Lukashenka is popular there a good perspective since news tends to focus on Minsk.
For my part, I intend to write a piece that reflects on the elections and what they mean after the smoke clears. That is if it does clear.
Suffice to say, with Lukashenka declaring 82% of the vote with 92% voting, it clear that the oppositions claim that the elections are a farce are solid.
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By Sean — 4 years ago
By William Risch @williamrisch
The Russian occupation of Crimea over the weekend has alarmed President Barack Obama, the UN, NATO, the EU, and, last but not least, the people of Ukraine. A week ago, it looked like the Euromaidan protest movement , which began in late November over President Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign an Association Agreement with the EU, and grew into a mass movement against Yanukovych’s authoritarian rule, had won. After an agreement with the political opposition on February 21, Yanukovych and his entourage fled Kyiv. The next day, Ukraine’s parliament, the Supreme Rada, overthrew Yanukovych. Most importantly, Ukraine had avoided civil war, despite significant differences over things like historical memory , relations with Russia, and attitudes toward the Euromaidan protest movement in Western and Eastern Ukraine. Pro-Yanukovych elites in Eastern Ukraine pledged their loyalty to Kyiv and accused Yanukovych of betraying them.
Then came Crimea.
On February 27, unknown armed men seized Crimea’s parliament in Simferopol. Then Russian military forces, some stationed in Crimea, took over or surrounded Ukrainian military installations. They claimed to be protecting Crimea’s citizens, of whom about 60 percent are ethnic Russian. Speaker of Russia’s Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko, claimed that Russians had been killed there. Yet on March 2, the speaker of Crimea’s parliament said he knew nothing about it.
Ukraine, rather than facing civil war, is threatened with partition by Russia.
Take Kharkiv, an eastern industrial city. Hired thugs, some from Russian cities like Voronezh and Belgorod, came to a meeting of “patriotic Kharkivians,” stormed the governor’s office, dragged out about 30 Euromaidan activists inside, and beat them up and humiliated them on Freedom Square. They hoisted Russian flags from the governor’s office. Russians from outside Ukraine were involved. Over the weekend, Euromaidan activist Vitaly Umanets discovered an invitation from “Ukrainian Civil Self-Defense” to residents of Belgorod and Rostov-on-the-Don, Russian cities bordering Ukraine, to take part in organized resistance in Donetsk and Kharkiv while posing as ordinary tourists at the border.
Many in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea distrust the new regime. Yet this weekend’s acts of violence in Kharkiv and Donetsk, or fake stories about such acts in Crimea, are reminiscent of fictitious and semi-fictitious accounts of violence against ethnic Germans that Nazi Germany used to justify annexation of the Sudetenland and the conquest of Czechoslovakia and Poland. Russia’s Federation Council on March 1 had approved use of force in Ukraine “for the normalization of the political situation in this country.” With the Russian media since late November portraying Euromaidan protestors as extreme nationalists and hirelings of the West, Putin most likely is using Russian forces, and provocateurs from across the border, to take not just Crimea, but also Eastern Ukraine, and maybe even install a more loyal regime in Kyiv.Post Views: 341
By Sean — 10 years ago
The Russians say they’ve pulled out of Georgia. George Bush and Nicholas Sarkozy charge they didn’t pull out. All this talk of pulling out sounds like they’re arguing whether Russia knocked up Georgia.
Well something is certainly gestating in Georgia. And the Russia-Georgia love child appears to be occupation. Russia’s gradual pull out has left a string of posts along the border of South Ossetia as part of a plan to leave 2500 peacekeepers inside a security buffer zone. The zone, according to Deputy Commander Anatoly Nogovitsyn, will be 6 to 18 kilometers thick, and will effectively allow Russian troops to occupy Georgia. The Guardian reports that Russian troops were seen digging trenches 7 km. outside of the port city of Poti. Hundreds or thousands of Georgians (it depends on who you listen to) demonstrated against the presence of twenty Russian troops yesterday, shouting at them to go home. You gotta love the protest signs in English. What a publicity stunt.
The Russian security zone and beefed up peacekeeping force will certainly pour gasoline on the theories about how Russia planned all of this from the beginning. The main proponent of the master plan thesis is none other than Pavel Felgengauer. Felgengauer agues, first in Novaya gazeta and then in the Eurasian Daily Monitor, that Russia’s war against Georgia was concocted as far back as April. Why did the Russians “provoke” this war? Why Georgia’s aspirations to join Nato and geopolitical positioning, of course. Felgengauer writes,
It seems the main drive of the Russian invasion was Georgia’s aspiration to join NATO, while the separatist problem was only a pretext. Georgia occupies a key geopolitical position, and Moscow is afraid that if George joins NATO, Russia will be flushed out of Transcaucasia. The NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, last April, where Ukraine and Georgia did not get the so-called Membership Action Plan or MAP to join the Alliance but were promised eventual membership, seems to have prompted a decision to go to war.
According to Felgengauer, the goal of the Russian invasion was to knock out Georgia’s military and maintain a permanent military presence in Georgia. Medvedev and Putin must really love it when a plan comes together. It happens so rarely. Most of them time they can’t get anything right, let alone effectively rule their own country. Now the diarchy are master manipulators of not only the hotheaded Saakashvili, but the world. I can imagine Putin explaining to Medvedev his role in the whole plot like Ed Wood did to Bela Lugosi (played brilliantly by Martin Landau) in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994):
Bela/Medvedev: Eddie/Vanya, what kind of movie is this?
Ed/Putin: Well, It’s about how people have two personalities. The side they show to the world, and then the secret person they hide inside.
Bela/Medvedev: (delighted) Oh, like Jekyll and Hyde! Ah, I’ve always wanted to play Jekyll and Hyde! I’m looking forward to this production.
(Ed/Putin stops typing. He pours Bela/Medvedev a drink.)
Ed/Putin: Ehh, your part’s a little different. You’re like the God that looks down on all the characters, and oversees everything.
Bela/Medvedev: I don’t understand.
Ed/Putin: Well… you control everyone’s fate. You’re like the puppetmaster.
Bela/Medvedev: (getting it) Ah, so I pull the strings!
Ed/Putin: Yeah. You pull the strings — (he suddenly gets a look) “Pull the strings”… hey, that’s pretty good!
(Ed/Putin quickly starts typing again.)
That is the real beauty the Russians. When we need them to be incompetent bunglers who are mired in perpetual backwardness, they’re there to play the part. When we need them as conniving, master plotters with their evil claws ready to “pull the strings,” they play that role too. You gotta love their dramaturgical range.Post Views: 298
By Sean — 4 years ago
By William Risch
Last night, Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, told his nation that they were at war. The Ukrainian government, after attempting peace talks for several days, was ending its unilateral ceasefire with pro-Russian forces in the Donbass region, which it has been fighting for over two months. “They have publicly declared their unwillingness to support the peace plan as a whole and particularly the ceasefire,” he said. “Militants violated the truce for more than a hundred times.” Thus Ukrainian forces, including the army, National Guard, Ministry of Interior forces, and paramilitary battalions have officially renewed the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO).
This time, the ATO promises to be an all-out war. Since the ceasefire took effect June 20, both Ukrainian and rebel forces have reinforced their positions. More tanks, rockets, personnel, and supplies from across the Russian border have reached pro-Russian forces. The Ukrainian online news source Inforesist reported June 30 that separatist Igor Girkin (a.k.a. Strelkov), after complaining for weeks about a lack of support from Russia, had assembled a force capable of seizing Izium, the headquarters of Ukraine’s ATO: 5,000 armed men in Sloviansk and dozens of armored equipment, tanks, and multiple rocket launchers. Fresh reinforcements have arrived in nearby Krasnyi Liman and Kramatorsk. Inforesist stressed that Strelkov not only could take Izium, but also advance toward major industrial city of Kharkiv, due to the Ministry of Internal Affairs forces lacking heavy armament.
Facing forces like Strelkov’s, Ukraine’s ATO will cost many lives. It will make worse a refugee crisis that has already led to at least 27,200 internally displaced persons from eastern Ukraine as of June 27, according to a recent United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report. The hundreds of military and civilians killed could reach the thousands if air strikes and artillery assaults become even deadlier.
Despite the nightmarish scenario, all-out war looks inevitable. There is not even one hint that the forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) or the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) even took President Poroshenko’s ceasefire seriously. During it, their forces killed a total of 27 Ukrainian security forces personnel and wounded 69. DNR and LNR leaders have suggested plans for creating a larger entity, New Russia (Novorossiia), which would incorporate other regions of eastern and southern Ukraine. On June 26, one of their key supporters – Oleh Tsarev, one of their representatives in peace talks with the Ukrainian government – announced competitions for designing national symbols for Novorossiia and a history textbook for the start of the new school year.
In the face of war, neither the United States nor the European Union can afford to let Ukraine lose the Donbass. The Budapest Memorandum of 1994, which led to Ukraine giving up its stockpiles of Soviet nuclear weapons, guaranteed that the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America would refrain from using force “against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defence or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.” Over the past few weeks, Russia’s lending separatists advanced weaponry and armed volunteers from across the border has seriously threatened Ukraine’s territorial integrity. What looked like a local conflict lacking popular support at the beginning of June has turned into a full-scale invasion at the beginning of July. This invasion and Russia’s illegal seizure of Crimea have made a total mockery of the Budapest Memorandum.
Supporting Ukraine’s war for the Donbass does not mean sacrificing the blood and treasure of U.S. or E.U. member forces. Western countries could send military advisors to train a more effective army (one badly undermined by corruption over the past quarter century). They could send ammunition. They could help finance the construction of a more secure border between Russia and Ukraine. Most importantly, they could support more vigorous economic sanctions against Russia. The West either must do what it can to support Ukraine’s military effort, or it may have to admit that international borders need to be redrawn and that international guarantees like the Budapest Memorandum are mere scraps of paper.
William Risch is a contributing journalist at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center in Kyiv, Ukraine, and Associate Professor of History at Georgia College. He is author of The Ukrainian West: Culture and the Fate of Empire in Soviet Lviv (Harvard University Press, 2011).Post Views: 331