Monday, November 29, 2004

Kuchma may not have the army, but assets remain 

There is some evidence now that the potential yesterday for action to remove the protestors from Independence Square and elsewhere might have not only been real but was thwarted only by a military decision to stand down. Interfax-Ukraine

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk said he is categorically opposed to declaring a state of emergency in the country or using force to deal with the political crisis.

"Those who make such statements need to think about their words," Kuzmuk told journalists after a session of parliamentary faction leaders and members of government on Monday.

According to my student listening to Ukrainian sources, the order to break up the demonstrators for last night was given around 11pm Kyiv time, and was about to be executed when, at a couple minutes before midnight, a second order came to stand down. Some of these troops would have come from Borispil airport. These would likely have cooperated with the forces reportedly on display on Shovkovychna and Hrushevsky streets. Today at a rally after the Supreme Court hearings Yushchenko and Tymoshenko had a general nearby who spoke to this effect. I think it's becoming rather clear that Kuchma has at best a tenuous grip on the regular military and police forces. He may resort, alas, to what we might call "irregulars".

Terry Rogers and Daniel Medley are arguing the end is near and that Yushchenko will win the presidency shortly. This article suggests the same. But, as Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friend! They may think the secessionist talk is all shapka and no salo, but it's worth remembering in that article that one guy is still pulling for Yanukovych, and he's the guy with a lot of chips on the table.

...insiders allege that Donetsk-based businessman Rinat Akhmetov continues to back Yanukovych and the separatist movement in eastern Ukraine.

Akhmetov is reportedly Ukraine�s richest man, also valued at about $3 billion. Akhmetov�s purpose in lobbying for eastern autonomy, according to insiders, is to make sure he retains control over these regions and his businesses there. He is involved in steel mills, coal mines, breweries, a mobile phone company and the

Media analysts say Donetsk-based television channel TRK Ukraina, majority owned by Akhmetov, has been using its news programs to support the autonomy movement.

I'm not sure it's wise to bet against this guy having some more tricks up his sleeve before this is all done. This article in Zerkalo Nedeli shows how close he and Yanukovych are, and Tom Warner writes about Akhmetov as well. (Old time Ukraine observers will know that Warner is an old hand from the early Kyiv Post days -- as reliable as you will find.) I believe the Donetsk clan is circling the wagons rather than circling the drain, and they are not out of ammo. Thus Kommersant Daily (via Kyiv Post) is also reporting the presence of Russian troops. Reporters are getting beaten as are people favoring Yushchenko in eastern Ukraine. The government says all this unrest is bad for the economy (maybe like a "house of cards"). And Putin isn't going away even if his own newspapers start questioning the wisdom of his actions. Listening to this report from NPR will not give you much comfort either. And if that's not enough, if I can find the video to this story -- I saw it on Fox this AM -- you will be disgusted. I certainly get the idea of there being tipping points, but I'm not seeing it just yet.

The Supreme Court case is in recess, with the Yanukovych lawyers given until tomorrow morning to respond to the case laid out today by Yushchenko's team. veronica watched it all and has eyewitness accounts here and here and here to give you a flavor of the proceedings.

Tales from Independence Square: Go read Orange Ukraine, top to bottom. For two days work, crackin' good.