Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Guest Blogger: A Third Face for Ukraine?

Ruslan Tracz's internship at the Kyiv Post could not have come at a more propitious moment for an up-and-coming Canadian journalist. Tracz has been freelancing coverage of the aftermath of the fraudulent election in Ukraine to the Winnipeg Free Press, where his articles were on the front page all weekend. Now the pride of the 'Peg's Ukrainian community, Tracz is also working on a photography exhibit for when he returns in April. Here is his analysis of the situation a week into the Orange Revolution, as e-mailed to me last night and posted with his permission. The photo's his too.

Well, we've now entered week two of the Orange Revolution and it seems the crowds have dissipated somewhat from downtown Kyiv. That being said, there are still hundreds of thousands people roaming downtown Kyiv. The protestors meander from Independence Square up to the Cabinet Minister's building and Verkhovna Rada and to the Presidential administration - all of which is in a 5 block radius.

Met up with a group of Victor Yanukovych supporters over the weekend. Despite all the falsifications and corruption of the election, many people in fact did support the Prime Minister, but not the 15 million that the CEC reported.

"Who will be president it doesn't matter," said a Yanukovych supporter outside of the train station Nov. 29, who did not identify himself, but was from Dnipro'petrovsk, south of Kyiv.

"We need a third face, one that will stand for Ukraine. Not Yushchenko, not Yanukovych."

After talking with him for a long time outside, he offered to buy some coffee. This being Ukraine, I accepted and followed him into the train station. Expecting coffee, I was surprised to see that he carried a bottle of Cognac to the table and began pouring. He did make an interesting point though.

Who would that third face be?

Yesterday, Yanukovych's campaign manager and head of the national bank Serhiy Tihipko stepped down from both positions. Tihipko - too close to Yanukovych. [Yulia] Tymoshenko - too close to Yuschenko. The Speaker of the Rada [Parliament], Vladimir Litvin has definitely impressed me. He has conducted himself with poise, honour and has acted for the good of the country. He takes his job with the utmost respect and honour and refuses for anyone to dishonour the Rada, scolding both sides on as many levels as possible in an emergency meeting of the Rada. But there is no indication that he even wants the job of president. Who knows, but it's an interesting comment. With the country so divided maybe a third face is necessary.

Looks like there will be a third round [of elections] though, Kuchma spoke about it yesterday. Right now they are having a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister in the Rada. Although it would mean very little legally, a vote of no confidence would clearly show the winds of change blowing. (play Scorpions song here)

What else?

Rumours continue to swirl about Russian troops dressed as Ukrainian military walking the streets of Kyiv and guarding inside the Presidential administration. But besides, the Prime Minister in waiting, Yulia Tymoshenko's word and a few reports of Ukrainian troops with Moscow accents looking lost in downtown Kyiv - it's best to leave this as a rumour.

The situation hangs in uncertainty right now and it seems as though the crowd is conserving energy as they await the Supreme Court, the Rada and both camps to make the next move.

Since this was written, the Rada voted down the vote of no confidence and the standoff continues. Latest from the NYT.

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