Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Ukraine III

Less good news for today - according to the opposition media Maidan, there was a first violent encounter in Luhansk:

Barely 5 minutes had passed when a huge crowd with banners and signs reading "For Yanukovych" came out onto the square. Around 60 thugs with bats and brass-knuckles ran out from their ranks and without further ado began to pummel the attendees. Result of the slaughter: broken arms, fractured skulls, smashed noses.

The police posted nearby DID NOT REACT IN ANY WAY to what was happening. This, however, hardly comes as a suprise. According to our information, police officers have an order NOT TO NOTICE attacks of thugs on people in orange. In addition, there were eyewitnesses to personal participation of employees of the city police department in the assault.

An earlier article on events in Luhansk, mostly detailing the quasi-Sicilian nature of local authorities/mafiosis, also points out local's strong fears on the language front. Michael S (who is on site) comments to an article at A Fistful Of Euros points out that there have been Yushchenko campaign errors on the language issue:

...remarkable how Yushchenko's campaign let itself be turned into a handy scarecrow for the same constituency. Even its main slogans weren't tranlated. When people gather at pro-opposition rallies in strictly russophone cities, they can only make speeches in Russian, but their chants are all in Ukrainian. In a way, it's been remarkable to see Ukrainian make the transition (in Ukrainian-Russians' eyes) from its traditional place of a bumpkin cousin of Russian to the language of civic courage, but from a political standpoint, I think it was a big tactical mistake.

...But I think Yushchenko made himself unnecessarily vulnerable. He was taking a heavy beating from a negative ad compaign on Ukrainian TV, designed by Russian advisors (whose tactics are actually a legacy of the oligarch-sponsored Eltsin reelection.) In addition, since domestically produced programs in Russian have been banned from Ukrainian TV, many people were probably tuning in to Russian channels, whose journalistic standards are hitting lows unseen since the soviet days... I've looked over a semi-transcript of the pre-election televized debate (in which Yanukovych switched to Russian for closing statements), and the only related comment from Yushchenko I could find was his dismissal of the language question as "populism". Sounds like a bad campaign move.

Another interesting Maidan article is based on conversations three days ago, in which economic motivations of Yanukovych supporters are covered. The pro-Yushchenko author argues for taking Yushchenko supporters seriously (while involuntarily exposing some rose-tainted glasses about economic policies himself):

The fellows from Lugansk, Donetsk and the counties ... at the train station right now, and they keep on arriving. Reliable sources have given me an estimate for the expected total – about 350 thousand people.

Pretty cool guys, we had a nice chat! And, what amazed me, far from stupid. They're staunch supporters of Yanukovych and don't like Yushchenko because under Yanukovych they just began to raise their heads, get salaries, and live more or less well, while under Yushchenko there was total ruin. The thing is, they're convinced one and all that Yushchenko wanted to close all mines and import coal from Poland – by doing so, taking away their income and making their kids go hungry. Our attempts to explain to them that things aren't so simple, that Yushchenko is a knowledgeable economist, and that it was a long-term economic program, were unsuccessful. :(

I want to say that they're completely reasonable people and they argue for their choice quite articulately. Therefore, in conversations with them we shouldn'g start telling them that Yanukovych is bad, but just try to explain, in neutral terms, that the rosy prospects they're seeing aren't all that rosy at all. It can work out according to the principle "water eats even through stone", but think through all your arguments clearly. These folks are well-equiped for debate - this is not drunken rabble, as many reports said, they are in fact by and large people worthy of respect.

Via A Fistful Of Euros.


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