In a joint statement, Germany, France, Poland, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the UK stated such elections violate Minsk agreements and the Ukrainian law and urged Russia to stop them from taking place. UN statements were on the same line. U.S. Department of State dubbed the elections an ‘attempt by Moscow to institutionalize its Donbass proxies’. NATO did not recognize them because they undermined efforts toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict – sure NATO must have a say when it comes to ‘peaceful resolutions’, and of course, people who vote they trigger wars.
LNR PM Leonid Pasechnik, elected with 61% of the vote, denied the ballot was being held contrary to the Minsk agreements. Such package of measures refers to ‘local elections’ to be held under Ukrainian law and monitored by the OSCE. The elections of the heads of the republics don’t fit the definition of ‘local elections’, which include mayors, committees, and town officials.
Ukraine denounced the ‘brutal violation of the Minsk agreements’, but so far it has failed to pass constitutional reforms on regional autonomy as required by those very agreements.
“Kiev didn’t challenge the legality of the election. They tried to challenge their legitimacy. That’s a procedural question, an administrative detail, not a legal one,” says George Eliason, an American journalist living in the LNR and member of the International Election Observer team. “LNR is committed to the Minsk agreements. It takes its responsibility very seriously.”
81 observers from over 20 countries confirmed the elections were fair and regular and took place with full implementation of international standards.
From the perspective of turnout and democratic procedures, the elections were a success. LNR had a 77% voter turnout and DNR came in with 80%.
“The turnout says everything. Where else in the world have you seen this kind of turnout? People knew what these elections meant: they had the power to make or break the republics. If the turnout was low, it would have meant that people voted no confidence in the republics and would have signaled they were failing.”
Very active online, Kiev officials urged people not to vote and warned that anyone who helped arrange or conduct the elections would face prosecution under Ukrainian law.
“They may have driven the numbers up a little with their threats. People were told not to come, but they came anyway. It was their duty. Of course, everybody was a little apprehensive. They knew Ukraine could try to provoke a reaction from Russia. At the frontline towns, the voter turnout was almost 100%. The closer you got to danger, the higher the turnout was.”
George has lived in the LNR with his family since 2012.
“I want the country to have a chance to develop,” he says. “Pasechnik and his government have made many good moves to restart the economy, rebuild the infrastructures, bring back jobs, and people are seeing it. At the same time, they’re fighting a war. Right now it’s sort of a cold war, but anyway there’s an enemy ready to attack.”
When asked about how he sees the future of the republics, he has no doubt. “It’s definitely into people’s hands. That’s important. They’ve decided their own future. And I believe it’s a bright future.”
Conversely, the future of Ukraine looks rather gloomy.
The 21st of November marked the 5th anniversary of the ‘Revolution of Dignity’ and a number of official events celebrated its achievements – though it’s not clear what exactly was achieved.
Today’s Ukraine is a failed state sinking into chaos. Corruption is endemic, as recently assessed by the International Monetary Fund. Since 2014, no high-level officials have been jailed for corruption. An inefficient court system obstructs the administration of justice, and compromised judges, prosecutors, and police officers remain in place. The Prosecutor’s Office is used as a political weapon, not least against journalists who question too much. In the meanwhile, neo-Nazi groups impose their own order with street patrols and pogroms in total impunity.
While Ukraine is emerging as Europe’s poorest country as 60% of its population lives below the poverty line, the economy remains largely under control of a handful of oligarchs, whose wealth has increased many times over. Many Ukrainians try to move abroad because they don’t see the long-awaited reforms coming anytime soon.
Instead, it’s winter that’s coming, and Ukraine can’t pay off its gas and electricity debts. There are cities without heating, and even some areas of Kiev have no hot water. Schools were closed, hospitals evacuated. Demonstrations and riots broke out, boiler stations were seized. It’s ‘Kholodomor’ in Ukraine!
On March 31, 2019, right at the end of winter, Ukraine is set to hold presidential elections, and Poroshenko is polling third behind comedian Vladimir Zelensky and the lunatic Gas Princess Yulia Tymoshenko. His presidency has been a total failure, and Chocolate Bunny is bound to lose miserably. He’s panicked. He’s scared shitless he might share the same doom as his predecessor Yanukovych.
Unless a plot twist happens!
As a true-blue European democrat, Poroshenko is soaked to the brim with Western values and has learned to do things European style. One for all: elections that don’t suit must not be done. Then, what’s about a ruse to declare the country too unstable to hold elections? Being in a state of war would work just fine. His old cronies in Washington are eager to help protect Ukraine against any sort of ‘outside threat’. In fact, Ukraine has been actively holding military drills with NATO on its soil since 2014. In July, NATO-Ukraine joint naval exercises were carried out in the Black Sea, and in October, the Ukrainian Secretary of National Security and Defense Council Turchynov announced they’ll conduct naval drills in the Azov Sea. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov promptly warned that NATO drills won’t happen there because the passage of warships requires Russia’s consent. The 2003 Russia-Ukraine treaty forbids any warship from entering the sea without the consent of both nations. Last summer, Ukrainian deputies introduced a bill to the Verkhovna Rada that would cancel the treaty. If this occurs, the interior of the Azov Sea will become international waters and NATO ships will be allowed to enter without restrictions.
On November 16, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Klimkin met U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo in Washington. In the Statements to the Press, Pompeo brought up the ‘Russian aggression’ and said that ‘Ukraine has no greater friend than the U.S. in this regard’. Consequently, the odd pair is set to ‘work together to promote democratic principles, press freedom, and judicial independence’ in Ukraine. Klimkin referred to the upcoming elections and stated they’re looking at U.S. experience in countering Russia’s meddling into it. He thanked his counterpart for the Crimea Declaration and denounced ‘Russia’s subversive activities in the Azov Sea’.
What came next? Well, a series of events may suggest some sort of ploy is in progress.
In those very days, incidentally right after the elections in the LNR and DNR, a Polish weapons firm replenished Ukraine with over 23,000 60-mm mortar shells to be delivered to the troops deployed in Donbass.
On November 21, the head of the press service of the DNR Armed Forces, captain Daniil Bezsonov informed about the arrival in Ukraine of British special forces units clad in chemical protection suits and carrying boxes with the chemical danger symbol. Yes, the British! Lest we forget, the UK had stated that the elections in the LDNR ‘undermined efforts to achieve peace in the region’ and called on Russia to stop providing military support to the separatists. But participate in a chemical attack is a step toward peace, right? Like Syria, like Donbass!
On November 23, the Ukrainian army deployed S-300 missile systems close to the Donbass frontline.
Sunday, November 25, three Ukrainian Navy vessels sailing from Odessa to Mariupol entered a ‘restricted security zone’ of Russian territorial waters in the Azov Sea without requesting permission from the port authorities. The actions triggered a chase, some gunfire, intervention of military choppers and fighter jets. Eventually, Russian Coastguard arrested the crews and impounded the vessels.
The evening of the same day, the Ukrainian artillery resumed shelling residential districts of Donetsk – and it’s been the heaviest in over a year. Meanwhile, in Kiev Poroshenko summoned his war cabinet to call for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council over an ‘attack of Russia’ and proposed to introduce martial law. The day after, the Verkhovna Rada approved 30 days of martial law in the regions bordering Russia on both sea and land, that’s to say, areas with a high percentage of Russian-leaning denizens.
Poroshenko didn’t propose martial law in 2014, despite the large-scale fighting and his denounce of Russian troops invading Ukraine. It surprises that now he considers it necessary following such a minor incident.
Martial law grants the government power to restrict civil freedoms, including freedom of the press; to limit citizens’ movements across the country and even ban them from going abroad; to stifle protests, gatherings, and strikes. This means it will affect the presidential campaign and, considering that it can be prolonged, it may affect and potentially cancel the elections themselves.
Will the international community, EU in the first place, react indignant and outraged at such moves?
In June, Ukrainian warships transited the same waters following the required procedure, which was by no means anything new because such waters had been Russian since before Crimea adhesion. Sunday was the first time they neither asked for authorization nor responded to Russian Coastguard calls. Two of the 24 servicemen now in detention are Ukrainian Intelligence officers, and they were effectively in charge of the operation, whose main task was ‘carry out a covert passage to and through the Kerch-Enikale canal’, as evidenced by the documents the FSB seized on the ships.
These details have not been considered and the incident was immediately framed as Russian aggression by Western pundits and MSM, which as usual had no interest in assessing the facts. EU officials followed suit voicing their support for Ukraine and calling for tougher sanctions against Russia.
At the UN Security Council, Russian Deputy Envoy Dmitry Polyanskiy denounced that the Azov Sea clash was a provocation preplanned by Ukraine and approved by Western states. He also accused the U.S. of funding Ukraine’s rogue actions in order to ramp-up hostilities. Well, incidentally, war hawks in the U.S. Senate demanded Trump to increase military aid to Ukraine. Poroshenko called on NATO to introduce warships into the Azov Sea. And by the way, on November 27, while Bolton was attending the military parade in Kiev with Poroshenko, Chairman of Verkhovna Rada Parubiy met Stoltenberg at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. What they’ve been discussing is hidden from the public as no questions from the press were allowed afterward, but in October, Stoltenberg had expressed concern over the situation in the Azov Sea at a press conference. Few weeks before, U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker shared the same stance in an interview to Deutsche Welle. Volker had stated that Washington was ready to supply Ukraine with weapons in connection with this issue.
The Kerch Strait incident is nothing but latest Poroshenko’s attempt to provoke a harsh Russian response. He expected the Russians to blow up the ships. A little of bloodshed would have added to the list of Ukrainian martyrs and given him a chance to appeal to the international community with a request to protect his country from ‘Russian aggression’. Killing people to get / stay in power is nothing new to Poroshenko. This time, he failed. But there’s one thing his ill-conceived fraud managed to accomplish, and it shows one more time that in the West those who are elected to power are not those to pull the strings later.
On November 29, while flying to the G20 summit in Buenos Aires on the Air Force One, and just hours after having said that it was ‘a very good time to have a meeting with Putin’, Trump conferred with Pompeo and, by phone, with National Security Advisor Bolton. The result was he scrubbed the meeting ‘based on the fact that the ships have not been returned to Ukraine’. It’s not clear yet out of which of those brilliant minds sprang such a reason. For war-hawks of the likes of Pompeo and Bolton not having a meeting is preferable to having one like that in Helsinki on July 16, when the two presidents appeared to have a cordial rapport and agreed to work together on several issues, including arms control. Western MSM didn’t miss a chance to portray Trump as a traitor.