Archive for May, 2014


May 28, 2014

Donetsk todaySome statements that go with the key-word “war” cynically say that “war is peace because it makes some people rich and safe…” Others have it that “…War is brutal. The alternative is worse.” The Russian proverb claims that for some people “war is war, for others – “dear mother.”

Yesterday the funeral of 17 soldiers from the west of Ukraine was broadcast on TV. They had died in Donbas. The wives and mothers dressed in black were crying. The children – most of them of pre-school age – were not crying. The women were hysterically asking a military commander of their killed husbands and sons how it could have happened that so many lives had been lost in what seemed to be not a major battle. I thought about the anti-terrorist action (which is the common official term for the war in Donbas) and about how long it has been going on. In my understanding an “anti-terrorist” action should last just a few hours, not months. However, every day our soldiers risk their lives and die in the East of Ukraine, There are no tangible results. There appear more and more of the bandits, who have got more and more of arms and ammunition. The bandits and the weapons can be continuously and successfully supplied from Russia only through illegally existing corridors in the border.

Several days ago a pro-Ukrainian activist Mr.Tymchuk (a former military) reported in social networks about some 40 trucks with armed people who were ready to move into Ukraine from Russia. The trucks moved in yesterday morning. The Ukrainian border guards explain that they made an attempt to “stop” the infiltrators but the attempt “failed” and hundreds of the terrorists headed for Donetsk to help the anti-Ukrainian forces. Today the government officials began talking about strengthening the border (after almost three months of the undeclared war with Russia!).

Soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union many Ukrainians started travelling to neighboring East European countries selling there goods they took from Ukraine. That way they got foreign currency which they brought back to Ukraine, thus providing for their families. Some goods were prohibited for taking out of the country – at least in the quantities the traders ‘exported’– and the people found illegal means of carrying the goods through check-points. As a rule, that was done through bribing custom officers and border guards. The state border became transparent, and for many officials responsible for keeping the border “locked” their position turned into a lucrative business. I know about it because my acquaintance told me in those days in detail how he was smuggling goods into Poland. The practice seems to keep until now. Only this time the corridors are bribed through not “out” but “into” Ukraine, and the neighboring country is not Poland but Russia, And the goods are less innocent than electric irons and cigarettes were.

The newly elected President of Ukraine said that his priority is fighting the corruption in the country. I think he put his finger on the problem.


May 26, 2014

VotingYesterday’s presidential election in Ukraine was special. It reminded me of the referendum on Ukraine’s independence on December 1. 1991. The major similarity was that both the election and the referendum were about the identity of the naition chrystalizing in the struggle against its main enemy – Russia. Our neighbor is the country which denies the very existence of Ukraine and it does its best to make Ukraine a “failed state.” Russia tried hard to disrupt the election, and the very fact that despite its attempts the election has been held according to the intertnational standards is a slap in Putin’s face which (as one of the politicians claimed last night) resounded all across the Russian Federation to the city of Vladivostok in the Far East of the country.

That might be the thing Mr. Putin was most afraid of: the free expression of the will of the people who live next to Russia, whom Russia had been trying to russify for centuries and who are now ready to build to their own future. In the Ukrainian campaign there were more than thirty candidates for presidency – from the extreme left to the extreme right. Every day in the prime time they had been presenting their views and programs for two weeks before May 25, and nobody stopped the live broadcast, nor kicked the presenters out of the TV studio. Something unthinkable for Russia, where only ONE person out of 140 million people is worthy to rule the country. Or rather two persons. The other is the present-day premier Mr. Medvedev, with whom Mr Putin periodically shares presidency since the Russian law does not allow to be elected president for more than two terms at a time. There’s a joke about Mr. Medvedev fingering a calendar and saying to himself: “I have just forgotten whose turn it is to be president – mine or Vladimir Vladimirovich’s.”

The election was also special because for the first time all main candidates were of pro-Ukrainian orientation. There was no mud-slinging, no opposition between the “Russian” East and the “Ukrainian” West of the country. In part it was due to the actual non-participation in the election of the people in Crimea and Donbas. Out of 2 million voters on the Crimean peninsular there were only six thousand who voted. They did it on the mainland, and many of them travelled specially to other regions of Ukraine to cast their votes. In Donbass the Kremlin-supported terrorists managed to close down 80 per cent of polling stations. At the remaining polling stations there voted about 15 per cent of the people of Donbas. Those who traveled from Crimea and who voted in Donbas were mainly pro-Ukrainian voters. Since the future of Ukraine is of no particular interest for the pro-Russian contingent, this state of matters suited both sides.

The border between Russia and Ukraine is practically non-existent. Yesterday I was watching the arrival in Donetsk of four military trucks with gunmen from Russia. The gunmen weren’t ethnic Russians – probably Chechens or Ossetians from Northern Caucasus. Who would ever have thought that the Chechens (the soldiers of Kadyrov, a Russian stooge in Chechnya) can one day fight a war against Ukrainians on the territory of Ukraine? The people of Donetsk gave them an enthusiastic welcome, chanting “Ras-si-ya” (Russia), “Ge-ro-I” (heroes) and “Ma-lad-tsy” (Well done!). If so, I thought, why not give them a free hand? Let the people of Donbas live as they prefer – in the mental prison called Russia. However, it might be reasonable only if the Russians were not infected with the bacilli of expansionism claiming their right to “protect” any Russian-speaking person (even not a Russian citizen) living in another country. After Crimea and Donbas they will definitely find “Russians in the center of Ukraine, and further in the west, not leaving out ex-USSR republics and the former Warsaw Pact countries.

After their Maidan (from December 2013 through March 2014) the Ukranians became different from what they had been before. They got tougher to the point of being less open and less friendly. It couldn’t be otherwise: they had a cruel teacher, they risked their lives and they witnessed the deaths of their friends.

Yesterday a new President of Ukraine was elected. Mr. Poroshenko won a landslide victory getting about 53 per cent of the votes, which made a run-up stage unnecessary. Petro Poroshenko was not my choice, but I accept him as the President of my country. Yesterday I listened to him answering journalists’ questions at the press-conference right after the exit-poll results. He is intelligent, diplomatic, he easily switches between Ukrainian, Russian and fluent English. A far cry from the jail slang of the former President, who had served two prison terms before his electorate in Donbas imposed him on Ukraine. Mr. Poroshenko’s first priority is overcoming corruption in the country. Well, the fair election yesterday may have been the first step towards this goal.

PorokhThe last point. Hopefully, after Maidan people of Ukraine will keep a watchful eye on their leaders. In this regard I liked the cartoon by Yuri Zhuravel — an artist from the region of Volyn in the West of Ukraine. Mr Poroshenko, the etymology of whose last name is based on the word “porokh” meaning “gun-powder”, sits on a barrel holding a “bulava” (a scepter symbolizing state power). The word on the barrel runs: “POROKH.”

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