Dead Men Left

Friday, November 26, 2004

Ukraine ukraine ukraine (Iraq)

This newspaper has a report from an international observer for the Ukranian elections, Dave Crouch, who reports that

The two main candidates each took 40 percent of the vote at the first round of elections for president on Sunday 24 October. A second round of voting is due on 21 November.

Tension on election day was extreme. The government brought armoured cars and water cannon into Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.


Both candidates have promised to take Ukrainian troops out of Iraq.

The deployment of Ukranian troops to Iraq has been at the centre of a political tussle inside the country:

Privately, President Leonid Kuchma does not support the U.S. led coalition; during his second term in office he has permitted and encouraged a growth in anti-Americanism. Kuchma believes that the United States (i.e., the CIA) was behind the Kuchmagate scandal that arose from the publicity given to tape recordings illicitly made in his office in 1999-2000. The recordings were made by Mykola Melnychenko, an officer serving in a Ukrainian equivalent of the U.S. Secret Service. Melnychenko obtained asylum in the United States in April 2001.

Kuchma tilted the country substantially towards Russia, backing up Vladimir Putin in opposing the initial invasion of Iraq. What the Jamestown Foundation report does not mention is the content of those transcriptions. According to the BBC

...Washington accused Kiev of supplying the sophisticated Kolchuga aircraft detection system to Baghdad in breach of international sanctions.

Ukranian deployment was token, to say the least, as are virtually all the deployments of the "coalition of the willing"; it may have "gone a long way towards repairing relations with the US", but these were at such a low ebb that it is scarcely surprising Washington does not care too much for Kuchma's preferred candidate, current Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovich.

However, the opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, hardly rises above the corruption that the Ukraine's new elite wallow in:

The main opposition candidate is Viktor Yushchenko. A former prime minister himself, he is backed by Yulia Timoshenko, a multi-millionaire businesswoman who reaped massive profits from the resale of gas...

Nor do his business as usual policies represent much improvement for ordinary Ukranians over the previous decade of privatisation and deregulation. But given a space to organise, and the chance to defend hard-won demorcatic freedoms, Dave Crouch is quite correct to say:

The squabble in the elite has created space for trade unions to organise. Whoever wins the election, the government will be weak, which creates opportunities for struggle from below. Trade unions must mobilise against any attempt at a military crackdown.

A grass-roots campaign, Pora, has grown up, built on the hope that Yushchenko will act to sweep out the old Kuchma-era rubbish, however faint that may be. It bears some resemblance to Otpor!, the Serbian youth movement that played a critical role in deposing Slobodan Milosevic in late 2000. Then, as now, whatever the failings of the official opposition, the role of socialists is clear: to support the uprising, and to stand against whatever military repression may be unleashed. Milosevic, after attempting to fiddle an election, was deposed by a mass movement, based upon colossal strikes - most importantly in the coal mines - and mobilising hundreds of thousands. There is a clear model here for building democracy, and it has little to do with diplomatic machinations, or - worse yet - the US Marine Corps.

Update: I've removed the embarrassing factual error above.