Poroshenko Elected Ukraine President, Putin Dodges Promise To ‘Respect’ Results
Poroshenko, for his part, must reject any “peace talks” that include Putin’s Russian diversionaries
Ukraine’s 35.5 million voters gave Petro Poroshenko, the so-called Chocolate King, a rousing 56 percent of the votes from 21 candidates on the ballot. He will be Ukraine’s fifth president. These figures are based on two separate national exit polls. Two days before the election, Vladimir Putin publicly backtracked on his pledge to honor the results of the election. In the days and weeks that follow, it will become evident that he never meant to recognize the results of the Ukraine presidential election. Let’s see how the world reacts.
The voter turnout was an unprecedented 60 percent despite the virtual disenfranchisement of an estimated 20 percent of voters in Donetsk, Lugansk, and annexed Crimea due violent separatist sabotage. Adjusting for the ballot burning, poll closing and physical intimidation yields a turnout in the neighborhood of an unprecedented 70 percent.
Sunday May 25 will go down in history as a proud day for Ukraine and sends a vivid signal that Ukraine’s people want stability, peace, and prosperity. The results also lay bare the narrow reach of the Russian-backed terrorists, who appear to hold sway only over the troubled Donbas.
The May 25 election will also be remembered for its naked brutality and violence. Russian-backed separatists intimidated electoral commissions into quitting, threatened to shoot intrepid voters, and closed down voting stations. No polling stations were open in Donetsk, and only a few in remote towns and villages in the Donetsk region. Polling workers fled in panic at one of the few open voting stations when Ukrainian soldiers arrived to vote. They thought they were being attacked by the pro-Russian Little Green Men.
So much for the election results. Let’s turn to its consequences, especially Vladimir Putin’s reaction.
Vladimir Putin declared ambiguously on Friday, at his annual Petersburg meeting with foreign business executives, that he will “respect” the election results. As Putin continued his use of linguistic tricks to stave off the sanctions threatened if he disrupted the election, his proxies in east Ukraine were preparing to engage in Goebbels-like totaler Krieg against the election.
Putin’s fiction that he holds no sway over separatist forces in south and east Ukraine is wearing thin. He feigned innocence when the self-appointed officials of the self-proclaimed Peoples Republic of Donetsk held their May 11 independence referendum, supposedly, despite his recommendation to delay. (Notably, Putin’s press secretary declined to define Putin’s position on the referendum, while emphasizing its overwhelming support for independence).
Putin’s assertions of “no control over separatists” have become even more unbelievable as pro-Russian separatists openly flaunt their Russian citizenship, contract fighting in Chechnya (with possible war crimes), their Russian military-intelligence backgrounds, and their common ties to a mysterious Russian oligarch. (For examples, see; Radio Liberty May 23, MKRU May 16, Fontanka May 21). I suppose these Russian nationalists intend to return to Russia once their Ukraine campaign is over. They must understand their actions please Mr. Putin.
Putin’s dance reminds me of a puppet show for children. The terrorists are the puppet, insulting ventriloquist Putin, who ruefully turns to his European and American audience as if to say: Look what this bad puppet is doing to innocent little me. The child audience reacts by scolding the naughty puppet. In this case, the West feigns gullibility to avoid taking tough measures against Putin, the put-upon puppet master.
Sunday’s Ukrainian presidential election adds yet another act to Putin’s theater of the absurd.
Remember that Putin walked a tightrope for Sunday’s election. Both the United States and Europe threatened Russia with real sanctions (as outlined by NEWSru) if he disrupted the election. Acceptance of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) clean bill of health for the election on Monday, as Angela Merkel and Europe require, will be a bitter pill for Putin to swallow. He will comply de jure but refuse de facto.
Putin’s Ukraine campaign pursues two objectives: Keep Ukraine out of Europe’s sphere of influence and snatch, at low cost, swaths of southeast Ukraine and Moldova, in what he now calls New Russia. Both objectives require the delegitimization of the provisional Ukrainian government that replaced Kremlin-true Yanukovich.
To be specific: Putin’s avowed justification for his covert invasion of east Ukraine was his humanitarian impulse to protect fellow Russians from repression, murder, and even genocide. Any recognition of the Ukrainian election dismantles Putin’s narrative of Russians in the east who must be protected (and even annexed) from the crazed nationalist extremists and neo-Nazis dispatched by Kiev. Poroshenko may be pro-Europe, but it is hard to pin an extremist neo-Nazi label on him.
Putin is not about to surrender his “Kiev is illegitimate” mantra without a fight, but he cannot openly reject the election results. Hence, Putin will continue to use cat-and-mouse linguistics, which leave him room to maneuver.
Note that Putin openly questioned the legitimacy of the May 25 election during his press conference (Johnson List #115) at the Petersburg business forum only two days earlier.
In a testy exchange, the moderator (from MSNBC) asked Putin point blank:
MSNBC: “Can I ask you, just to put this on the record for your audience here: Do you accept the legitimacy of the election that is going to take place on Sunday in Ukraine?”
Putin: “There you go again! Time and again. Who found this guy and brought him here? You know, we realize that people in Ukraine want their country to get this drawn-out crisis over and done with, and, without any doubt, we will respect the choice of the Ukrainian people. Of course, we will keep track of the events.”
In other words, Putin refused to answer the question. He then went on to delegitimize the Sunday election:
Putin: “I’m not sure if you’re aware of it, but, strictly speaking, no presidential elections can be held under the current constitution, as President Yanukovych hasn’t left presidential office in a constitutional manner… Strictly speaking, he’s still president under the constitution. Wouldn’t it be easier to hold a referendum, (and) ensure human rights in the east and south of Ukraine? But those who are in power in Kiev today have chosen a different path.”
This remarkable public repudiation of the Ukrainian election largely escaped media notice, but not that of an astonished Ukrainian blogger who posted (in Russian) a piece entitled “Without jokes, without irony, Putin promises to respect the results of the Ukrainian election.” Putin’s are not the words of someone, who intends to recognize and abide by the results of Sunday’s election, but America and Europe look the other way. They want the fig leaf to avoid real sanctions.
By the way, Putin’s Kremlin press service declared on May 12 (one day after the so-called Peoples Republic of Donetsk referendum stamped as illegal by the UN, Europe, and the United States) that “Russia relates ‘with respect’ to the expression of the will of the people of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, participating in the so-called referendum on the status of regions declaring themselves ‘peoples republics’ after the change in authority in Kiev. (See: Voice of America report). I guess reporters should ask Mr. Putin which election he “respects” more – the official Ukraine presidential election or the so-called referendums carried out by non-existent political entities.
It was left to Putin’s proxy, Prime Minister and ex-President Dimitry Medvedev, to let the cat out of the bag in an interview with Bloomberg TV. Medvedev declared that Yanukovich is healthy and is still president of Ukraine. “Therefore it is not necessary to conduct an election.” And now the key words as reported by Segodnya: “I can say that as a result of elections which will be in May, a part of the people of Ukraine can express their opinion on this or another candidacy. Of course, it is possible to relate to this position with respect. Does this constitute an act of recognition. No, it does not.”
The Russian media’s more restrained characterization of the May 25 election for its English-speaking audience is telling (See: RT Ukraine presidential election timeline): “The early presidential election in Ukraine has started amid looming civil war and economic collapse, precipitated by a recent power takeover and dispute with top trading partner Russia. Two eastern regions have refused to take part in the election.”
So much for fair and balanced coverage.
What should we expect from Putin in the coming days and weeks? He will continue to “respect” the election outcome. He will insist on negotiations that include his self-appointed Russian-citizen mayors and governors, but that the negotiations can only begin after Ukraine has withdrawn its troops from regions occupied by the pro-Russian separatists/terrorists. His proxies will continue to funnel reinforcements to his beleaguered command and control centers in East Ukraine, such as the arrival of the “Vostok battalion” in Donetsk. (See YouTube) Putin will continue to execute a war of attrition, keeping his options open by destabilizing the Donbas for a later attack on the whole of New Russia.
Poroshenko, for his part, must reject any “peace talks” that include Putin’s Russian diversionaries. Nothing can come of this other than delays that enable the separatists to solidify their gains. He must consolidate the Ukrainian army and special forces under a central command that incorporates informal militias formed during the provisional government. The command and control centers of east Ukraine must be attacked only by regular uniformed troops under a professional command.
What Putin has done in east Ukraine will backfire, perhaps immediately. World public opinion may be inattentive, but everyone in Europe and North America detests bullying, election abuse, and intimidation. Such images do not sit well with the civilized world. Putin can continue to play his “I am not responsible” game, but it will not find a receptive audience.
What Ukraine accomplished on May 25, 2014 is remarkable and world public opinion will recognize this. We like to divide people into the good and bad guys. The separatists will come out of Sunday’s events as the bad guys. Putin cannot afford major PR failures in his battle for public opinion. I believe he is about to suffer a major setback.
Re-post from Paul Greogry’s blog.
The author doesn`t work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have no relevant affiliations