Georgians Descend on Ukrainian Polls or Just for the Girls?

The results of the Presidential elections in Ukraine were as predicted.  Viktor Yanukovich took 35% of the vote to Tymoshenko’s 24.7%.  The two will face each other in a run-off on 2 February.  If one needed more proof that all is good in Ukraine, the Moscow Times reports that traders in the Ukrainian hryvna and stocks took the results “in their stride and said markets would be calm.”  Well, all will definitely be good now that the results are blessed by the hand of God.

The big story, however, is not the election, the candidates, the possibility of continued political chaos, or even voter apathy. The big story is why Georgia sent 2000 election “observers” to Ukraine.  Yesterday, I noted reports of two charter planes flying into Donetsk carrying a total of 297 Georgian “athletic men” aged 25 to 45.  What were they doing in Donetsk per chance?  According to what they told the Ukrainian border guards, the “purpose of their visit was to meet with Ukrainian girls they met on social networking sites.”  Apparently, another charter plane carrying 120 Georgian men landed in Kiev.  No mention of Internet hook-ups there.  There is suspicion all three planes were part of the 2000 Georgian observers to beef up the 3149 officially registered international observers.  Yanukovich’s camp immediately cried foul.  Ukraine’s Central Electoral Committee refused the register them, many assume thanks to “political strings” pulled by Yanukovich’s Party of Regions.  Tymoshenko defended the Georgian contingent saying, “That all observers should be registered.”  But 2000?  From Georgia of all places?  I smell a rat.

Many, mostly from Yanukovich’s camp, smell a rat too, one genetically concocted by Tymoshenko and Saakashvili to sabotage the election. The plan, if there was one, backfired nonetheless.  Though this doesn’t mean a few Georgians didn’t get swept up in the controversy.   Yanukovich’s bodyguards beat up a crew of Georgian reporters from Rustavi 2, while others were harassed and prevented from entering polling stations to cover the elections.  Four Georgians were detained by police.  One was arrested for threatening the chairman of the electoral commission in Voroshilovsky district.  Another for violating his visa.  According to police, two others were busted in the Petrovsky district of Donetsk “for penetrating a polling station and trying to tear off seals from ballot boxes.”

Manana Manjgaladze, Saakashvili’s spokesman denied there was any foul play amiss, saying that Georgia didn’t support any one particular candidate, though it is said that Saak favored a Tymoshenko administration. Ia Makharashvili, a spokeswoman for the Georgian foreign ministry, swore that the observers sent by Georgia were “exclusively representatives of civil society, NGOs and civil servants.”  Nevertheless, speculation of a Saak-Tiger-Yulia plot heated up a few days prior to the election after a taped phone conversation allegedly between the two surfaced:

Allegations that Saakashvili supports Tymoshenko intensified after a taped phone conversation, allegedly between Tymoshenko and Saakashvili, surfaced on the Internet on Thursday, January 14. Rustavi 2, Imedi and the Georgian Public Broadcaster aired the conversation the next day. A woman’s voice noted a problem with the registration. A man replied that Georgia had sent “very competent and battle-ready people.” He also told the woman to meet “Givi”, an alleged reference to Targamadze, to resolve the issue. “We are disposed to help Ukraine… The only thing that is needed is coordination,” the man said.

Electoral kompromat or a Saak-Yulia love fest?  I’ll let the reader decide.

Considering that nothing exciting happened during this election, the plot of the Georgian athletic men is probably just PR mudslinging.  After all, it’s totally possible that all these Georgian guys came to Ukraine a day or so before a presidential election, on a chartered plane no less, to hook up with a bunch of Ukrainian devs they charmed on Odnoklassniki.ru.

Isn’t it?

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