NEW PRESIDENT – NEW HOPE

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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