Thursday, November 25, 2004

Ukraine: a bogus calm

Well, whatever was about to happen clearly didn't. Yushchenko called for a general strike and the occupation of public buildings after the results were announced. It's unlikely that anything dramatic will happen today as the EU-Russia summit takes place. In other news, reports of local administrations rejecting the government, demonstrators digging in, etc. are steadily coming in. So are stories about Russian soldiers, movement of troops and the like. One prosaic explanation for the "Russians" would be that they are Ukrainian soldiers from a unit recruited in the Russian-speaking parts of the country - this would explain their accents. As the terminology, uniforms, weapons and vehicles are nearly identical it would not be a difficult mistake to make.

On the international side, both the European Union and the USA have rejected the results in a surprising outbreak of transatlantic harmony. Jose-Manuel Barroso, facing the first real challenge of his Commission Presidency after the confirmation rows, suggested that Ukraine might face "consequences" in the event of violence - it being strongly hinted that those consequences might not be unconnected with some $1.31 billion in aid and trade advantages currently provided by the EU. Colin Powell, interestingly, used exactly the same formulation ("consequences in its relationship") when he rejected the results last night. Well, we shall see. On BBC television last night, a "campaign adviser" to Yanushkovich was interviewed. Bizarrely, he didn't speak of his man as "President", "Prime Minister" or "President-elect" although the BBC used the latter term - instead it was "Mr. Yanushkovich". Interestingly enough, he turned out not to be speaking from Kiev but from an unstated location in southern Ukraine. So - his campaign adviser doesn't call him "President" and has taken himself off to the provinces? Hardly a sign of confidence.

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