Ukraine’s Orange Revolution might not have provided stability, but it sure has increased the entertainment factor of its presidential elections. They’re far more entertaining that Russia’s stuffy, no contest campaigns. Despite the high fun factor, Ukrainian voter disillusionment is high, while the candidates, hoping to jostle into a competitive pole position, are getting down and dirty. What a bunch of party poopers.
Today, Yulia Timoshenko showed her “claws,” reports Reuters, in an attack on poll leader Viktor Yanokovich a coward for refusing to participate in an election eve debate. She also pilloried him and the oligarchs backing him with claims they are planning to rig the election.
“If fraudulence is revealed, if we are unable to defend an honest result and prove that there was falsification, then we will resort to the courts,” Tymoshenko said on Sunday night.
“We will protect the country from a second coming of this oligarchic plague of locusts because they can eat up everything, but we must defend the country,” she told 5th TV.
Yulia is getting more and more desperate. The latest poll shows the Tigress slipping. Former economic minister Sergei Tigipko got a bump to 14.4% compared to Timoshenko’s 13.9%. Yanukovich has a solid lead with 30.5%.
A solid lead, however, doesn’t mean that Yanukovich’s camp is going to take Timoshenko’s taunts quietly. Anna Herman, an ally of Yanukovich’s “locusts,” hit back.
“If there was a world championship for beautiful unfulfilled promises then Tymoshenko would be without a challenger,” Herman said. “Viktor Yanukovich does not wish to compete with her in a contest of beautiful lies.”
Having fun yet?
All the electoral backbiting appears to be backfiring. Many voters have already decided the election is a farce whatever the outcome. Some have even started hocking their votes on the internet. And why not? If the elites are willing to sell their keys to power to the highest bidder, the little guy might as well get a piece of the action. Better than standing mute watching some cynicism-laden opportunity pass you by. One vote-market trader wrote on his blog: “I am a true patriot and citizen of Ukraine and I will sell my vote in the upcoming elections on the 17th with pleasure. Asking price: 200 zelenyi [i.e. dollars].” More and more Ukrainians are finding the chance to personally peddle their democracy a grand idea. But without a money back guarantee. The website Sell Your Vote now lists 4658 votes for sale, to a total of 4,224,043 hryvnia or $522,176. The average asking price is $112. Just to give a sense of how much its grown today, this morning Novye Izvestiia reported 1468 votes for a total of $224,000 with an average price of $155. Sounds like a bit of vote deflation is taking place. Ukrainian democracy is getting cheap. Literally.
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By Sean — 10 years ago
There is a cease fire on paper. There isn’t a cease fire in reality. Russia’s moving toward Tbilisi. Russia isn’t moving toward Tbilisi. Tomāto. Tomato. Potāto. Potato. Let’s call the whole thing off because checking CNN for updates on Georgia is liable to make your head spin. Every small Russian action is instantly viewed as part of a larger design. The latest evidence that sparked fears of an assault on Tbilisi? A Russian convoy that was heading toward the Georgian capital but then turned off the road back to South Ossetia. Saakashvilli interpreted this as Russian forces “encroaching upon the capital.” Thankfully, even CNN is starting to not be so easily fooled. CNN Correspondent Matthew Chance was traveling with said convoy, and though he couldn’t say where it was going, he did report that it didn’t get any
resistance from Georgian soldiers, and it was possible that the Russians were on a scouting mission to choose a buffer zone between the breakaway region of South Ossetia and Georgian territory. Chance described the flag-waving Russians as relaxed.
Not the atmosphere you would expect for soldiers mounting an assault.
Still Saakshvilli was persistent, perhaps trying to save face from a military debacle and that embarrassing video of him running for cover in Gori out of fear that he was the target of Russian bombing. “This is the kind of cease-fire that, I don’t know, they had with Afghanistan I guess in 1979,” he told CNN. “There is no cease-fire, they [Russian forces] are moving around.”
Perhaps the Russian forces aren’t the ones Georgians should be worried about. The real worry should be the so-called “irregulars” that are wreaking havoc in the wake of Russian armored columns. The Guardian‘s Luke Harding reports that these irregulars, who according locals are comprised of “Chechens, Cossacks and Ossetians,” are engaging payback.
“Eyewitnesses say they are looting, killing and burning. These irregulars have killed three people and set fire to villages. They have been taking away young boys and girls,” said Harding, watching smoke rise from another village, Karaleti.
He said he had witnessed people fleeing in the direction of Tbilisi. “For three hours there were people fleeing in cars, I saw one with 11 people and a Lada with eight people in it.” He had also seen people fleeing on a horse and cart and a tractor.
Though the Guardian adds that “eyewitness claims could not be immediately verified,” I wouldn’t be surprised if irregulars, especially Ossetian militias, are extracting some vengeance. The last few days have produced a Manichean atmosphere where violence is quickly becoming a whirlpool of reciprocity.
Human Rights Watch confirms these reports of Ossetian vengence:
Numerous houses in the villages of Kekhvi, Nizhnie Achaveti, Verkhnie Achaveti and Tamarasheni had been burnt down over the last day – Human Rights Watch researchers saw the smoldering remnants of the houses and household items. The villages were virtually deserted, with the exception of a few elderly and incapacitated people who stayed behind either because they were unable to flee or because they were trying to save their belongings and cattle.
“The remaining residents of these destroyed ethnic Georgian villages are facing desperate conditions, with no means of survival, no help, no protection, and nowhere to go,” said Tanya Lokshina at Human Rights Watch.
In the village of Nizhnie Achaveti, Human Rights Watch researchers spoke to an elderly man who was desperately trying to rescue his smoldering house using two half-empty buckets of dirty water brought from a spring. He told Human Rights Watch that the vast majority of the residents, including his family, fled the village when active fighting between Georgian forces and South Ossetian militias broke out on August 8, but he decided to stay to look after the cattle. He said members of the South Ossetian militia came to his house on August 11, and tried to take away some household items. When he protested, they set the house on fire and left. The man said he had no food or drinking water; his hands were burned and hair was singed – apparently as he was unsuccessfully trying to extinguish the fire – and he appeared to be in a state of shock. He said that there were about five to ten elderly and sick people left in the village, all in a similar desperate condition, and many of the houses were burned.
In the village of Kekhvi, many houses were set on fire between 6.30 pm and 7.30 pm on August 12 – they were ablaze as Human Rights Watch researchers moved along the road. Two elderly women from Kekhvi were weeping as they told Human Rights Watch about what happened in the village. One of them explained that the members of South Ossetian militias passed by the village and stopped at her house and “threw something” that set it on fire. She did not manage to rescue anything from the house and at the time of the interview could not even enter the house as it was still burning. She had no money on her and did not know if she could survive in this situation.
Human Rights Watch researchers also saw armed Ossetian militia members in camouflage fatigues taking household items – furniture, television sets, heaters, suitcases, carpets, and blankets – out of houses in the village of Nizhnie Achaveti and loading them into their trucks. Explaining the looters’ actions, an Ossetian man told Human Rights Watch, “Of course, they are entitled to take things from Georgians now – because they lost their own property in Tskhinvali and other places.”
Hopefully, this terror of the “irregulars” and Ossetian militias will not push things beyond control. That is assuming they haven’t already.
In Abkhazia, the Russian advance has embolden the Abkhaz military. Abkhaz forces have taken the initiative, without the aid of Russian forces, to expel the Georgians troops from the region. A symbolic turning of the tables has already commenced. “Entering the village, the Abkhaz military men first took off the Georgian symbols from the building of the administration hoisting the flag of the breakaway republic instead,’ reported Kommersant. Even Shota Utiashvili, the Georgian Interior Minister, was forced to admit that “Today, we’ve lost Kodori.”
According the Russia Today, Abkhazia was to be next on the Georgian list. A map found in a Georgia command vehicle are believed to show plans to invade Abkhazia.
Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba apparently intends to make this Georgian loss permanent. The taking of Kodori occurred after Medvedev’s declaration to cease operations, a fact that irked the Georgians even more. But Medvedev’s order didn’t seem to matter much to Shamba. As far as he was concerned the Russian President’s words simply don’t apply. “The words of the Russian President regarded Russia’s armed forces. Dmitri Medvedev’s decrees have no power in Abkhazia’s army,” he said [Emphasis mine]. Again, this emphatic “have no power” is a reminder that this conflict includes two parties that seems to be excluded from all the diplomatic wrangling between recognized nation states. Namely, the South Ossetians and the Abkhazians. I would imagine that as long as they are excluded, their voices will sing the songs of retribution.
Then there are the journalists. War is always hell for journalists as their craft and lives fall victim to the chaos of violence. So far, Reporters Without Borders named four journalists who have been reported killed in Georgia.
Cameraman Stan Storimans of Dutch TV station RTL-4 was killed and reporter Jeroen Akkermans, the station’s Moscow correspondent, was injured during Russian bombing of the Georgian town of Gori last night. Earlier yesterday, a Georgian reporter working for the Russian edition of Newsweek and his driver were killed when a shell hit their vehicle in Gori’s main square.
Yesterday’s deaths came just a day after two other reporters – Giga Chikhladze, the head of Alania TV, and Alexander Klimchuk, the head of the Caucasus Press Images agency and a correspondent for Itar-Tas – were killed in the breakaway republic of South Ossetia, apparently in an attempt to pass a roadblock manned by Ossetian pro-independence fighters.
That is not all. Russian media reports that two Russian journalists, Vyacheslav Kochetkov, a photographer for Ekspert and Igor Naidenov, a correspondent for Russian Reporter, have disappeared in Georgia. Aleksandr Kots, a special correspondent for Komsomolskaya Pravda was wounded, as was Zadok Yehezkeli, an Israeli reporter for Yedioth Ahronot. He sustained serious injuries after being hit in the shoulder by a bullet. Two Turkish reporters were wounded after being attacked by Russian and Ossetian troops. Two Czech reporters had their car and equipment stolen by Ossetian soldiers. And what of the Ossetian and Georgian journalists?
The reporters looking for a safe story now have an outlet. The Russian military has reved up its PR machine with hopes to reverse the dismal portrayal of Russian actions in the foreign press. Enter Colonel Igor Konashenko. Today, Konashenko gave a guided tour of Tskhninvali for foreign journalists. “Look around you,” the Russian officer instructed the tour group. “A lot of women and children died here. Who do we blame? You know the answer.”
Indeed we do. And so do the Ossetian militias.Post Views: 835
By Sean — 5 years ago
Oleksiy Arestovych is a family psychologist and contributor to the Internet newspaper in Kyiv, Ukrains’ka Pravda. His op-ed piece, published as “Стратегія теплого океану” on Ukrains’ka Pravda‘s website on December 6, suggests that Ukraine’s Euromaidan protest movement is about ordinary people opposing a corrupt post-Soviet state through nonviolent resistance, without inspiration from a national opposition or foreign help.
“Warm Ocean Strategy”
By Oleksiy Arestovych, Friday, 6 December 2013, 10:55, for Ukrains’ka Pravda
Translated by William Risch
There have been many conversations going on in society today about the right strategy to take.
I’ll give it to you now.
A strategy should meet the following criteria:
- it should be simple,
- it should be clear,
- it should be doable,
- and it should be easy enough, not requiring super efforts.
To wage a struggle successfully, you need to know the following:
- who and what are you dealing with?,
- what strengths do we have?,
- how to apply the second question to the first one?
1. Who and what are we dealing with?
We’re dealing with the System. The bureaucratic machine is the System’s skeleton. Exploiting one’s own position like one’s own property is what drives this machine. The main thing is to remove dirty, uncontrolled cash from society. The system is built just like a giant vacuum cleaner that has to pull dough right up to the top.
The system’s character is its main strength and main weakness. In particular, when it’s about money, the system’s cogs lose effectiveness.
Friends of mine in 2009 asked me to take on the duties of assistant head of the district administration in a well-known regional center of our country, so that bad people didn’t run it. I agreed to do it: it would be a an interesting cultural study, a chance to see from the inside how the state works. The district was the city’s central one, and the most curious processes took place there.
For instance, some kiosk stopped making a payoff. Administration officials complained to it:
Where’s the money, Zin?..
The kiosk’s owner gave a reasonable answer:
You go figure it out among yourselves. There are so many people complaining that I don’t know who to deliver it to, and who wants what from whom.
The officials, furious, pass a resolution to remove the kiosk:
- so that this wouldn’t happen again,
- so that he paid what he owed,
- so that he paid for the kiosk’s return.
A crane comes, and the ones carrying out the punishment look on. The crane starts lifting up the kiosk. Before it can put it onto a flatbed, other officials, from the police, run up. The kiosk owner had paid them off just beforehand, and they came to defend him – with future payoffs in mind.
District bureaucrats start yelling at policemen. Arms are swinging; spit flies. Gawkers show up. Then the prosecutor runs up –one who also has made some agreement with the owner. He enters the conflict. A little later, the SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) joins in a three-sided chess game. Then the tax inspectors join in. Later – the SES (Sanitation and Disease Control Station) and the firemen. The district police inspector comes in. The GAI (State Auto Inspection) intervenes. All of their faces turn red, all of them are foaming at the mouth, they all shout and yell, they’re all full of hate – state servants are fighting for their 50 hyrvnias. The kiosk’s owner, who at first was taking a tranquilizer to calm his nerves, begins bursting with laughter.
The moral of the story is that there is no unity in the System. Part of the System is in a fierce struggle for dirty cash, and they hate, I repeat, hate each other. It’s not just about those on the same level of power, but above all, those from the chain of command on down. Every paperpusher has to put a certain sum into the vacuum cleaner. Harvest or no harvest – take it out and put it in. But he or she wants to do it in a way so that more of it sticks to his or her own hands.
The main battle with corruption is with bureaucrats tricking each other horizontally and vertically in the System as they struggle for uncontrolled cash.
There is no common sense of mutual interests here. It’s total rot, not even rot – a cancer eating away at people’s souls and their affairs. The only thing I could not understand was why didn’t this system fall apart, like a wet piece of paper in your hands? It was worth nothing…
Further observations of mine showed that the System holds up only because of people not knowing about its real condition and because individual dealers share an instinctive desire to make things more convenient for themselves.
The System is Golem, a doll made of salt collected from our investments in it. It still holds up because of our hopes and expectations put into it, because we do not believe in ourselves, and because of its role as a third party in regulating public affairs, a role we have given it.
And its salt comes from our tears, from our deceived hopes, from our dead childhood dreams.
But today, this isn’t how it is. The System, in its greed and stupidity, has devoured itself. It has presented society with a price incommensurate with the role it has performed as a social regulator. For a long time it has taken so much and given so little that it has poisoned the life of even its cogs, the bureaucrats, with its inadequacy.
And this means that it will die.
The good news is that you don’t have to break up the doll. You just have to dissolve it.
2. What is our strength?
The American army fights better than others because it has very strict rules of engagement. They aren’t Russians who bombed out thousands of their own Russian-speaking citizens, the elderly and children, in Grozny.
In a state of danger, when you are expecting a blow from any side, you need to have a set of durable qualities to avoid falling for a hysterical desire to shoot everything that moves. And this set of durable personal qualities builds character – strict rules about opening fire that the Americans follow.
We Ukrainians have as a strength the fact that we have not descended into setting off pogroms. A nation should be in control of a very healthy spirit if it can, amid such a long list of grievances with the state, not hang it on lampposts or drown the country in blood and fire.
As for us, we have a protest that is exclusively restrained and tolerant. Without drunkards, without fights, without hysteria. A protest based on “please” and “may I.” A protest that has developed through “An Ode to Joy” and an anthem performed by thousands of voices on the country’s main square.
And our protest is joyful. With bonfires.
And the world, in awe, is slowly beginning to doff its hat to us. The world has been shaken up (it’s even started to affect the Russians).
Our strength lies in the fact that we can reach our goals without violence, and with happiness.
3. How should we apply our power to the System the right way?…
We have a System that has grown tired of itself. Very many functionaries would like to work honestly. Very many policemen dream of becoming civilized policemen and truly serving and protecting. Already everyone is fed up with the doll of salt.
We have a happy and tolerant force.
This means that we need to become an ocean that dissolves this doll.
What’s an “ocean”?…
1. This means that the System needs to become oversaturated and devoured. We need to surround it.
At the beginning of the millennium, your dear servant served in military intelligence, and in particular, he was responsible for getting intelligence needed for our forces’ deployment in Iraq. So in Iraq, I noticed one fundamental truth: the average number of attacks on coalition forces amounted to 100-120 a day. The security system that the Coalition forces had set up sustained this burden. But right after the situation heated up, the number of attacks jumped to 200-250, and it was then that the System slowly began to fall apart. Contacts were broken, supplies ran out, logistics didn’t work. Neither reserves nor reinforcements helped us.
And this wasn’t the broken down horse of the Ukrainian bureaucracy. These were the Americans. The difference is incomparable.
And the main thing is that to this very day, not a single one in the world knows what to do with this strategy. They have found no means to act against this. And they can’t be found. They don’t exist.
The rule that follows from this: we must constantly develop and sustain actions against the System. This doll won’t last long. It will become overburdened and fall apart.
2. What does “warm” mean?…
It means that our actions should be peaceful and even good.
The System’s problem is that it’s inhuman. It’s even inhuman to those who make it run, those on whom it’s dependent for its own survival. It also treats them like cattle.
Today there appeared in public photos showing a “Berkut” unit who had been worn out from constant patrols and from being moved from place to place (talk about overburdening!). Still dressed in their uniforms, they slept in a row in the hallways of the Cabinet of Ministers building – hungry, angry, dirty, and, believe me, already VERY PASSIONATELY hating their bosses.
These people had been ordered to commit a crime. The had been sent to pound children to pieces, and they were given 500 dollars each for this. Some slick paper-pusher who came in a Mercedes awarded them those dollars. “Berkut” stood there, looked, and thought, “So how much did he pocket from this?”
Senior Lieutenant Kamyshnikov, a genius for all times and all people, taught me this a long time ago, in our commanders’ school that had been awarded three red banners:
“For the system to work, you have to fuck and feed the workers. But you have to do it exactly in that order.”
This pile of rot is forgetting how to feed its own. It’s squeezing the pips out of them.
The System will collapse when its own regular functionaries begin sabotaging it.
Yesterday there was news that a bunch of people held up thirty busses with special MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs) units near Vasyl’kiv. If those units wanted to drive through, people wouldn’t have been able to stop them.
This means only one thing: the commanders of these units refused to follow an order, gladly making use of a bunch of people holding hands as an excuse. The police already understood their bosses.
Just a little more pressure, and one grandma with a poster will stop echelons of tanks. And the valiant colonels will report the following: “Blocked by the people, journalists are here, I can’t kill people.” And then he’ll turn off the phone. The battery ran out, don’t you know?
Let’s not forget that it’s about a warm ocean, but an ocean. An ocean is power.
The people’s actions need to be gentle, but powerful. That means first blocking forces, yet also feeding them next.
The System’s actors understand this very sequence: at first, they must feel the pressure of firm hands at their necks, and then experience spoons brought to their mouths.
And then they’ll understand that the people are their bosses (the ones they had sworn an oath to, by the way).
So don’t strike “Berkut” with chains, but send them ladies with flowers and grandmothers with hot soup. Stroke their hair. But do it in front of men who have blocked off the military unit’s place of deployment or the building being guarded.
3. One of the System’s greatest places of strength is in its sense of anonymity. We must by all means necessary overcome this sense of anonymity.
A bureaucrat or a policeman who carries out criminal orders should instantly become a national star, and everyone should know what he or she looks like.
Personalizing the actors is one of the most powerful ways of fighting the System. Actions need to have recipients. Do not threaten. Have some sympathy for them or welcome them – that will leave a better impact.
4. An ocean needs to be salty. The strongest way to dissolve the System is to dissolve it in laughter. Irony and sarcasm are what break up the doll. Besides that, laughter gives the best support to protestors.
And finally, what does a “shot” or “action” mean?…
An “action” is any method that will have a peaceful impact on an actor of the System – a functionary or a policeman, an institution, a department, a group.
Remember that the strategy should be one that is easily doable?…
Don’t get stressed out, stress takes away energy. Let them get stressed.
Choose actions for yourself that you can carry out, ones that make you happy, ones done out of giddiness, and ones that you can easily carry out as you go about your daily business.
Even honking your horn when you drive past a Ministry building is an act that breaks Golem up.
5. Defending our own is a key moment. For anyone who winds up in torture chambers, we must immediately get them out. For all those who have disappeared, we must immediately find them. There shouldn’t be, and there must not be, protestors who are hostages of the System. This is the cornerstone of the struggle.
We can carry out all these points mentioned, but if we give this last one up, we fall. Everything will come together like clockwork only if any protestor knows that the sky would sooner fall than someone abandoning them in a cell, in a court, in an ROVD (District Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, i.e. a local police station).
That we will pay any price to get him or her out.
- mass character,
- targeting individual people,
We should make a giant, warm whirlpool around the System, one that will wash it away.
And most important: since yesterday, it’s become clear that everything I’d written about has worked. Initiatives have started to multiply, and they have multiplied both geographically and in terms of means. Lawyers are flooding the System with court cases, drivers are blocking bases of special units, and bloggers are publishing lists of firms belonging to Party of Regions members. It’s taken off, it’s started.
Actually, a real miracle has happened. At the beginning of events, I’d given the possibility of these developments happening only one-and-a-half percentage points.
It’s a miracle that society, no matter what, organized itself from below.
I wrote this long tract not to give someone a task to fulfill. I just wanted to help people act more consciously, to lay out certain principles and main lines of action.
We, the people, don’t need any “leaders.” You yourselves are already capable of doing this.
And this is a victory.Post Views: 522
By Sean — 4 years ago
“For weeks,” a recent New York Times article begins, “rumors have flown about the foreign fighters involved in the deepening conflict in Ukraine’s troubled east, each one stranger than the last: mercenaries from an American company, Blackwater; Russian special forces; and even Chechen soldiers of fortune.” You might be able to add Israelis to that list according to reports.
Korrespondent.net writes that the so-called Aliya battalion of Russian-Israelis has arrived in the Donetsk People’s Republic. “Today a group from Israel joined with our militia. It’s called the Alyia battalion which was formed in 2002 from immigrants to Israel from veterans from the Red Army and CIS countries,” says Donetsk’s deputy people’s governor Pavel Gubarev. “They protect settlements in the occupied territories and promptly sent 20 highly trained fighters to Slavyansk with experience in the Soviet and Israeli armies, and in two weeks are ready to bring 200 soldiers to fight the Nazis.”
News that Aliya was going to Donetsk emerged in early May when Izvestia ran an interview with its commander, Roman Ratner. “I want to state outright that this is a private initiative. We have no relations with the Israeli government, and it doesn’t support us in any way. This is a personal affair for each fighter—as their concern for fascism. Members of our battalion are concerned about the events in Ukraine, especially after the tragedy in Odessa.”
According to Ratner, Aliya includes former paratroopers, special forces, snipers, canine handlers, medics and other specialists. They promise to serve as peacekeepers—in the name of the Donetsk Republic—to “force [both sides] to peace.” Or in the words of Avigdor Eskin, a right-wing Russian-Israeli, who has often spoken about the “fascist junta” in Kyiv in Russian and Israeli media and initiated the plan to send Aliya to Ukraine, “The battalion will be present so the Banderovtsy can’t burn people alive.”Post Views: 683