Surprise: Ukraine referendum a total farce

Sunday’s “referendum” about the fate of eastern Ukraine was, as many predicted, a complete sham.  That, of course, was the plan of the thug Putin, who intends to bring that part of the country under Russian control, if not a part of Russia itself.  The vote for “sov ereignty” was 90% in favor, not quite as indicative of thuggery as, say, an election in China or North Korea, but pretty close.

As the New York Times reports (and let’s not have rants about how the paper is a propaganda organ of the U.S. government), this is what a “fair” referendum looks like:

Nearly everyone who cast a ballot appeared to be voting in favor of greater autonomy from the Ukrainian central government in Kiev. Opponents appeared to be staying away from the polls, as many had said they would. The ballot papers that could be seen in transparent ballot boxes in two cities, Donetsk and Slovyansk, were almost all marked yes.

Transparent ballot boxes. Great!

In one town, Ukrainian security forces shot a man to death outside a polling station as an angry crowd, ignoring warning shots, rushed toward a building that the soldiers controlled. In some other cities, voters took ballots that were run off on photocopiers and stuffed them into cardboard boxes that the organizers spirited off quickly, lest they be seized by pro-government forces.

. . . At a half-dozen polling places visited by reporters, except for those in Slovyansk, there were no voting rolls to consult; anyone who could show a local address in official identity papers was allowed to cast a ballot. Tatyana Us, a volunteer election official, referred to the practice as “open list” voting.

. . . In the town of Krasnoarmiysk, voters filed past a table on Sunday to pick up a ballot and a sausage sandwich. Crude secessionist propaganda posters hung near the polling station, touching dark themes of xenophobia and anti-Semitism. One depicted the current president, Oleksandr V. Turchynov, as a goat-like figure and asked, “Do you want Satan as your president?” Another said Ukrainians should reject the “European Jewish choice.”

And the sign of inequity:

Late Sunday, separatist leaders in Donetsk reported that the ballot on “self-rule” had gone in their favor, with almost 90 percent of the vote, and that 75 percent of the region’s eligible voters had gone to the polls. For the province as a whole, another organizer was quoted as saying, “on average, from every 1,000 ballots, only one is against.”

Another sign that this kind of drummed-up vote doesn’t reflect the will of the people comes from a Pew Poll published on May 8, indicating that while both east and west Ukraine lack confidence in the central government, big majorities in both regions want the country to remain unified—and that goes for Russian speakers. (Easterners, however, want both Ukrainian and Russian to be the country’s official languages:

A clear majority of Ukrainians agree that their country should remain a single, unified state, according to a pair of new surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center in Ukraine and Russia – after Crimea’s annexation by Russia, but prior to recent violence in Odessa and other cities. The survey in Ukraine also finds a clearly negative reaction to the role Russia is playing in the country. By contrast, the poll in Russia reveals a public that firmly backs Vladimir Putin and Crimea’s secession from Ukraine.

Here are the data:

PG-2014-05-08-ukraine-russia-0-01

And this is what is giving Putin confidence:

In Russia proper, the public also sees the matter as closed. More than eight-in-ten Russians (84%) think the March 16threferendum was fair and even more (89%) say Kyiv ought to validate the results, according to a new Pew Research survey in Russia, conducted among 1,000 randomly selected adults between April 4-20. The same survey finds that majorities of Russians (61%) agree that there are parts of neighboring countries that belong to Russia, and that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a great tragedy (55%). While the poll did not explicitly ask Russians whether they supported the Kremlin taking military action to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine, nearly two-thirds (65%) agree that military action is sometimes necessary to maintain order in the world.

The data:

PG-2014-05-08-ukraine-russia-0-06

61% of Russians think that nearby countries should be part of their own, while only 28% disagree.

It is a curiosity of our time that we see Putin and his thugs repeating the kind of land grab—and the kind of call for annexation of “historically Russian” land—that resembles the actions of Hitler before WWII. If any Western country tried this kind of shenanigans, they’d be roundly excoriated for imperialism.

Some day we’ll find out that Putin is an oligarch in every sense: not just a monomaniacal tyrant who wrestles bears, but one who has enriched himself at the expense of his people.

I have no doubt that some readers will defend this phony referendum—and Putin himself—and I’ll continue to receive the kind of obscene and harassing phone calls that always follow my posts on this issue.  I’m truly puzzled why so many people want to defend this expansionism and Russian-sponsored violence.

Russians: this is your leader. Putin topless on horseback (. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Pool/Alexei Druzhinin)

Russians: this is your leader. Putin topless on horseback (EUTERS/RIA Novosti/Pool/Alexei Druzhinin)

 

88 Comments

  1. Posted May 13, 2014 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    Its mighty machismo spread above us;
    Putin’s ego is hovering high.

    Kol slaven!

  2. Barry
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    Jerry,

    The irony here isn’t that your commentary is wrong…far from it. I support your views entirely regarding Putin’s behavior and intent. The issue is that the US electoral system has been increasingly questioned by independent election observers for similar (though much less extreme) reasons that are explained here. This has removed any moral authority the US once had in holding the torch. This has cast serious doubt on the standing of the US as a truly democratic enterprise. With both Republican and Democrat states gerrymandering electoral boundaries to create “safe seats”, repressive voter ID laws, removal of requirements for southern states to limit independent electoral changes, voter intimidation at ballot stations, voter challenges at ballot stations, the citizens united decision etc.. Add to this the systematic abuse of the constitution with respect to surveillance of US citizens and the serious breach of trust in the disclosure of spying on key allies along with illegal surveillance of any group whose ideas the prevailing regime dislikes, and the US has little credibility in pointing out the egregious abuses of Putin. Of course it must still do so, but effectively with one hand tied behind its back.

    The damage done to the standing of the US around the world…and the effective limitation of its positive influence…is regrettable yet inevitable because of these events.

  3. Posted May 13, 2014 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    Ummm. . . are you equating what happened in Florida with the Gore debacle with the mass Xeroxing of ballots and other shenanigans (ncluding shootings) going on in Ukraine, Are you serious in saying that ALL AMERICANS (including me) have no moral standing to criticize this because there were voting irregularities and political machinations of some people in Florida? Have I lost my ability to criticize these phony elections, and if so, why, since I’ve never done anything like this.

    And are you truly saying that the inequities in Florida are identical to the inequities in Ukraine? If so, you’ve lost your moral compass.

    Just because some people in the US have tried to swing elections does not mean that the rest of us have no standing to criticize this stuff in Ukraine. I’m not responsible for gerrymandering and vote-rigging, and I have not compromised my moral standing in any way.

    Why not say that we have no standing to criticize Putin’s imperialism because of what early Americans did to Native Americans? Indeed, if you look at every miscreant act in the history of America, we have no standing to criticize ANYTHING.

    And, of course, neither does Germany–given its Nazi past and all. . . .

    • Timothy Hughbanks
      Posted May 13, 2014 at 6:07 am | Permalink

      I really don’t think Barry was implying that you have no standing to criticize Putin’s imperialism, but that the US government’s standing is weak, or at least weaker than we should be willing to accept. The electoral shenanigans occurring in the US are, as Barry said, much less extreme, but they are happening now and those of the recent past (e.g., Florida, 2000) have never been broadly accepted by the US government or even the US media as the outright frauds they were. If American officialdom at least owned up to the stealing of the 2000 election now, your Nazi reference would be appropriate, since it doesn’t it isn’t.

      • eric
        Posted May 13, 2014 at 7:00 am | Permalink

        Try and keep some perspective here. The FL 2000 problem was that political appointees took a 0.01% counted difference in votes, and used legal procedures to turn it to their party’s favor. The Ukraine problem is that unelected, armed bands of political partisans took a 70% ‘not in favor’ expected result and turned it into a 90% ‘in favor’ result at the polls via ballot stuffing and voter intimidation. On a per capita basis, their problem is literally three orders of magnitude larger than ours.

        • Posted May 13, 2014 at 7:18 am | Permalink

          I’m amazed at people’s ability to take two grossly unequal incidents and try to make them seem equally wrong.

        • Timothy Hughbanks
          Posted May 13, 2014 at 7:18 am | Permalink

          The difference in scale was noted (“much less extreme”), but your numbers are way off. The purging of Florida voter rolls is estimated to have disenfranchised from 50,000 – 90,000 votes: read Chapter one carefully.

        • stevenjohnson
          Posted May 13, 2014 at 8:14 am | Permalink

          Yes, let’s do try and keep some perspective here. First, so far as voter intimidation goes, the neofascists and all their foreign apologists decisively won when they burned dozens of people alive in Odessa. But I’m sure the government forces shooting a man on the day was still helpful. Being a neofascist apologist requires mental flexibility, but trying to pretend that when your side kills a man, it’s the other side intimidating the masses is still quite a feat!

          Everyone knows that the armed activists in Donetsk and Luhansk are relatively lightly armed and relatively few in number. If every single one of them was a Russian Spetznaz there aren’t enough of them to intimidate the people who can face down a neofascist tank from Kyiv. This whole argument is shameless bullshit.

          Second, the coy admission that the Pew poll was “prior to recent violence in Odessa and other cities” means the purveyors of this disinformation know there are powerful reasons (every corpse in Odessa is one!) for the poll to be already outdated. But since you want to talk about it, the poll was about how many wanted to keep Ukraine united. The referendum was not about how many wanted to keep Ukraine united. Concluding a vote is fraudulent because of an outdated poll on a different question? I don’t know about the turnout, but I know that’s a fraudulent use of statistics.

          The question on the ballot is whether or not the voter supports autonomy. Your neofascist friend drove out all eastern deputies and appointed new governors, so in many respects autonomy is pretty much a defensive reaction. The neofascist regime of course has made zero effort to hold elections to replace the deputies terrorized into resignation. Nonetheless at this point, a vote in favor of autonomy is not a vote for separatism or union with Russia. Not yet.

          And while we’re on the subject of polls, how do you think your neofascist friends intend to hold a legitimate presidential vote? Those handfuls of guys at checkpoints and scattering of official buildings weren’t enough to herd mobs into polling places and create chaos. But your neofascist friends are burning people alive and sending troops to kill people. With that kind of intimidation how can the presidential vote be anything but a total farce?

          • Daoud
            Posted May 13, 2014 at 8:17 am | Permalink

            This post brought to you by Vladimir Putin?

          • Posted May 13, 2014 at 8:18 am | Permalink

            Please tone down your language here. Just make your arguments, refute others, and don’t call people’s arguments “shameless bullshit,” even if you think they’re wrong.

            I’d prefer a classier tone here, okay?

          • eric
            Posted May 13, 2014 at 10:38 am | Permalink

            So, Steven, let me summarize: because you think the Ukrainian government in Kiev is neofacist and authoritarian, you are instead going to support the folks using advertising slogans like “reject the European Jewish choice.” Is that correct?

    • Frank Stabile
      Posted May 13, 2014 at 6:22 am | Permalink

      I still don’t understand this argument though. A complete fraud of an election is a sham, regardless of election problems in America. In this situation, the problem is not that America’s stance is too weak, it’s that the US and the EU have not really done anything significant. Sanctions are fine and all, but they will not stop Russia’s advance; the slow motion takeover continues.

    • Daoud
      Posted May 13, 2014 at 6:35 am | Permalink

      Speaking as a Canadian, in my experience I have found that some leftwing liberals can become quite blinkered when weighing the crimes of the US vs. others. I know this myself as I went through a vicious anti-American phase from about 2003-2006 or so. I think a big reason for this is simply the familiarity and proximity to US malfeasance.

      The Soviet Union has probably been the most destructive force in modern history, and it is in competition with the People’s Republic of China for absolute body counts (and considering the Soviet Union’s role in the creation of the PRC, it deserves top spot). The US has been a growing empire and empirical force since 1898, and like most empires, it does a LOT of awful things. But it is still a mere shadow of the USSR’s crimes. And Putin has enormous nostalgia for the Soviet Empire, he is trying to recreate it, maybe without a lot of the ideology, but much of the political structure. He is indefensible.

      • Timothy Hughbanks
        Posted May 13, 2014 at 7:13 am | Permalink

        I went to high school in Yakima, Washington – eastern Washington is every bit as redneck as Texas, where I live now. I’m sure that I was one of the few students to be bothered to read The Gulag Archipelago – my schoolmates, virtually all of whom are right-wingers couldn’t be bothered. The reason I criticize the US, other than, as you say – proximity, is for precisely the reason I implied. The extent to which we behave like Putin (compare Bush, our Texas Air National Gaurdsman, preening on the flight deck of a ship after his brave conquest of San Diego harbor) weakens the voice of government that is supposed to represent me in criticizing him.

        1898? Really? I take no pleasure in reminding you that until 1863, the US government officially sanctioned the private ownership of people – many millions of them. The Soviet Union was unspeakably evil (and forcefully saying so was the best thing Reagan ever said), but American crimes aren’t as insignificant as the Soviet crimes, the worst of them just came earlier.

        • Posted May 13, 2014 at 7:24 am | Permalink

          Well, the fact that there was slavery in inexcusable, but what I find puzzling is that you somehow use it (BTW, it’s illegal now in the US) to imply that we have no right to critizie what Putin is doing now. Do you think we should really shut up while Russia takes over eastern Europe? Or are you saying that we should say, “Well, we know we were bad: we sanctioned slavery 150 years ago, and there were problems in that Florida election, so could you please excuse us for that and maybe consider not spreading dissension and violence in Ukraine?”

          I can’t believe that you’re really saying that we should remember slavery in the US and therefore tone down our criticisms of injustice now.

          That argument completely eludes me,and seems to me a way to simply excuse or overlook what Russia is doing now. And maybe we should stop criticizing North Korea’s status as a national prison camp, too. After all, we did have slaves before the 1860’s.

          Maybe we just shouldn’t criticize any bad or immoral actions in the world, anywhere.

          • Timothy Hughbanks
            Posted May 13, 2014 at 8:22 am | Permalink

            It is quite the opposite, really. I am not all saying that you shouldn’t criticize Putin. I think your criticism is appropriate and correct. Let’s face it though, US behavior – not in the nineteenth century, but in the twenty first – means that the voice that might actually make a difference, your government’s voice, is compromised.

            • Posted May 13, 2014 at 8:24 am | Permalink

              So how far back can the U.S. have misdeeds without compromising our government’s voice? Ten years? Fifty years?

              I am not my government; I am an individual.

              And if you think Putin would have paid more attention to the U.S.’s criticism if we had a sterling record, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.

              • Timothy Hughbanks
                Posted May 13, 2014 at 8:39 am | Permalink

                Putin is a thug and you’re probably right that he wouldn’t have paid more attention to a better US government. But he isn’t the audience for our government’s criticism (or yours, obviously). It is other nations that we’re talking to. Do you really think that when John Kerry says that Putin is a nineteenth century imperialist, that there aren’t a lot of people outside of either the US or Russia who aren’t thinking that sounds pretty hypocritical coming from man who voted to let Bush invade Iraq on false pretenses?

            • reasonshark
              Posted May 13, 2014 at 11:30 am | Permalink

              The point I think Jerry’s getting at is that, however laudable it is that we don’t pretend America is a shining beacon of goodness, past or present, bringing it up here is still a Tu Quoque fallacy, which in turn is simply an Ad Hominem argument, which in turn is a red herring from the key issues. I’d imagine he is morally outraged, as our reflections on past misdeeds on American territory sound discomfortingly like moral exculpations of the situation in the Ukraine.

              He’s a scientist, yes, and I imagine he’d be interested in the darker sides of American history, just when he thinks it’s relevant to the current issue. At present, the issue is: What’s going on in Eastern Europe, and if it’s something nefarious, what ought to be done about it? If there are criminals there, pointing out that there are criminals here too is a bad way to attempt justice.

        • Daoud
          Posted May 13, 2014 at 7:32 am | Permalink

          1898 chosen as when US gained ownership of the Philippines and went to war with the Filipinos because the US would not support them as an independent republic but wanted it as a colony. They also annexed Hawaii around then. Also note I specified “modern” history, which I intended as since 1900 (which almost coincides with the US’s first big push for overseas colonies). No doubt the US has very very dirty bloody hands, all large imperial powers do, but since 1917, there is just no comparison in evils. And at the most basic, “evils” defined as *people killed*.

          Look up the whole concept of Democide:

          http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/20TH.HTM

          Now, I am not intending to slam leftwing liberals, on the political spectrum, I am extremely leftwing liberal (especially when compared with Americans), but this is something you do see, America gets so much flak for its crimes (which it deserves, I am not saying it should not come under harsh criticism) and sometimes the effect of this is to lessen and sometimes even completely ignore the enormity of others’ crimes. We ARE seeing this with the Ukrainian crisis (and Russian propaganda is exploiting).

  4. Grania Spingies
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    I like this version of the Fearless Leader

  5. Posted May 13, 2014 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    Reagan and Bush used to pose in a similar way, but at least they kept their shirts on.

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted May 13, 2014 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      I saw Reagan with his shirt off in Tropic Zone. Eeuww! Put it back on, dude!
      His chest was so hollow I imagined him looking down and saying “Where’s the rest of me?

    • gluonspring
      Posted May 13, 2014 at 8:56 am | Permalink

      A silver lining I never though of before.

      • Posted May 13, 2014 at 9:08 am | Permalink

        On the other hand, with Putin shirtless I guess it was easier for Bush to see into his soul?

        • Jeffrey
          Posted May 13, 2014 at 11:01 am | Permalink

          Quite frankly I can do without Putin’s homoerotica.

  6. Posted May 13, 2014 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    The NYT’s Ukraine Crisis in Maps

  7. Diana MacPherson
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    I’m reading a really good book right now that I can’t believe that I can’t put down (because it’s not something I’d read voraciously). It’s called <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13165299-the-strongman&quot;The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia by Angus Roxburgh, who uses exclusive interviews in Russia and his experience there to paint a picture of how things started to go well then went terribly wrong. Roxburgh was a Kremlin insider whose company advised Putin and his team on press relations in the West.

    You also start to understand the Russian mindset, the fear of the West and its influence, the complete misunderstanding of how things work in the West: the government not pressuring courts to do things like extradite citizens, not understanding that you can’t pay journalists to write positive stories – the Russian government thought the West was just being jerks to them for not doing so. You really come to understand that Russia and the West have had such different experiences that it’s no wonder we are where we are today.

    The book talks about a lot of stuff including the Ukrainian issues in the 90s. We often forget about that poor guy Viktor Yushchenko and how Russia backed one candidate and the US backed another (openly) in the 90s and poor Yushchenko was poisoned and it gives some very insightful commentary on how Putin saw Ukraine and how Ukraine saw itself.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 13, 2014 at 7:04 am | Permalink

      A couple of points :

      Roxburgh was a Kremlin insider whose company advised Putin and his team on press relations in the West.

      Checking out Roxburgh’s CV is instructive ; yes he’s worked at a PR company hired by the Kremlin ; before and after he’s worked as a Moscow correspondent for the BBC, Guardian, Sunday Times. Wrote the book you mention and others, continued working as a journalist. Only the more rabidly right-wing press seriously challenge his integrity. (Also, particularly annoyingly for me, his name overlaps with someone who I’m trying to track down for my class’s 30th reunion.)

      You also start to understand the Russian mindset, the fear of the West and its influence, the complete misunderstanding of how things work in the West:

      I’m still trying to persuade the wife to vote in the coming elections. but to the question “what difference would it make?”, I don’t have a good answer.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted May 13, 2014 at 7:45 am | Permalink

        Yes, I should have written more about the author (I was rushing to a meeting – hence also my sloppy html). Thanks for adding more about him. His writing style is very engaging and he seems to have an objective (well I guess as objective as any of us can be) view of how things are and have been as well as access to a lot of officials in the US, UK & Russia.

        There was an amusing Tweet he did of the different cover of his book in China. It had a picture of Putin on it that, as Roxburgh imagined, seemed to say “Oh Angus, how could you write such shit about me”. :D

  8. Vinovian
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    Are there sufficient Russians in Chelsea, London, so that they could organize a ballot to secede from the UK or are they just too happy to be free of Putin.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 13, 2014 at 7:06 am | Permalink

      sufficient Russians in Chelsea, London, so that they could organize a ballot to secede from the UK

      It has been tried before.

      • John Scanlon, FCD
        Posted May 13, 2014 at 8:05 am | Permalink

        Never seen that one, need to do a serious Ealing catch-up one of these years.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted May 14, 2014 at 5:15 am | Permalink

          I think you’ll find that the Ealing Comedy is a bigger catch-up than the Ealing Serious. But both worthwhile. (Trying to remember the Ealing Serious that I saw a few days ago … Alec Guinness one … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malta_Story ; not exactly bursting with laughs.)

    • Posted May 13, 2014 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      Brighton Beach is next.

  9. Milton Zmijewski
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Does this sound Hitleresque? Poland
    comes to mind.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted May 13, 2014 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      And Austria, and Czechoslovakia.

    • Muhry
      Posted May 13, 2014 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      You don’t have to leave Russia(Soviet Union) to find a comparison. Stalin acquired half of Poland in an agreement with Hitler and then as the war was winding down the agreement was with Churchill and Roosevelt. He also acquired part of Finland following the Mainila incident, a false flag operation.

      Russia has long been an expansionist country as evidenced by it’s huge size.

  10. Greg Esres
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure 90% of Americans would be in favor of independence from Great Britain.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 13, 2014 at 6:52 am | Permalink

      That’s how the MacPhersons came to Canada from Boston and they got land in the deal.

  11. karlvonmox
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Yeah, its easy to question the NYT’s credibility on these issues for good reason – their reporting has not always been accurate on foreign policy issues (including Venezuela and Ukraine). All you have to do is look at Robert Parry’s reporting on this issue to see the papers questionable track record:

    http://consortiumnews.com/2014/05/04/another-nyt-sort-of-retraction-on-ukraine/

    http://consortiumnews.com/2014/04/23/nyt-retracts-russian-photo-scoop/

    Second, the problem with Prof Ceiling Cat’s analysis here is that this referendum in eastern Ukraine is no less legitimate than the ousting of a president by neo-Nazi right-wing militias, cheered by the USA all the way.

    There is no indication that Putin is going to try to anex eastern Ukraine like he did Crimea, and the only ones that arent pushing for some kind of round-table discussion and diplomacy are the crazed leaders in Washington. For a more realistic analysis of this situation by professor of Russian studies Stephen Cohen, look here:

    http://www.democracynow.org/2014/5/12/after_chaotic_autonomy_votes_negotiations_could

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 13, 2014 at 7:08 am | Permalink

      this referendum in eastern Ukraine is no less legitimate than the ousting of a president by neo-Nazi right-wing militias, cheered by the USA all the way.

      That’s the message that I’m getting from Sloviansk and Belgorod.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 13, 2014 at 7:48 am | Permalink

      I think what the Kremlin would like is for Federation of Ukraine. In this scenario they could influence Ukraine and it would eventually join Russia (the East anyway). I heard an interview on CBC yesterday of two people – one a woman who fled Donetsk because she disagreed with joining Russia and was targeted so felt unsafe, the other with an English language teacher who wanted to join Russian. The point of view of the one who wanted to join was that there are better wages & pensions in Russia. This person also said that he hoped that Eastern Ukraine would be independent & eventually join Russia. I suspect this is the long term play.

    • Posted May 13, 2014 at 8:12 am | Permalink

      I don’t know… all my friends in the Ukraine that were freezing their goddamned butts off in the streets last winter — at great personal risk? I know some of these people. they certainly aren’t “right-wing neo-Nazis”. They are actually very courageous people, many of whom were getting dragged off and tortured by Putin’s puppet thugs (the police henchmen of the corrupt Ukraine leaders at the time). Their police suck (some of the most corrupt in the world), and their courts are a farce… normal, regular people got sick of that shit and took to the streets, especially as they knew the electoral process was as broken as the courts.

      I just don’t get where this characterization of the original overthrow comes from… all the Ukrainians I know over there (Kiev/Odessa) have European, left-leaning sensibilities – and to a person, every one of them wants the Russian influence to be far, far away – preferably in Siberia. I’m sure the percentages would change the further out you get in the sticks, but that’s pretty much a similar pattern one sees anywhere… the sticks are where the rednecks hang out. The neo-Nazis are the ruddy right-wing rednecks that crave the stability of a Putin-led society – at least that’s what it seemed like when I was there.

      • Christian
        Posted May 13, 2014 at 9:31 am | Permalink

        ‘Fascist’ was simply a catch-all term for (esp. Western) ‘enemy’ in the Soviet block*).
        Do you remember the ‘Antifaschistische Schutzwall’ (antifascistic bulwark)?

        *) I guess ‘national-socialist‘ would have hit too close to home.

        • Posted May 13, 2014 at 9:51 am | Permalink

          The last evening I was there, I was talking about the anti-fascist bulwark, strangely enough. My hosts were telling me about how their relatives were stuck out in the front lines by Stalin’s thugs, and no attention paid to tank support. (I think there was talk of tanks being pulled back, am forgetting the details) Anyway, the rout was horrific, and helped to further pro-Nazi sentiment, esp. in light of the recent famines and Ukrainians being sent off to the gulags in droves by the Soviets. Afterwards, of course, collaborators with the Nazis found out they were no better, and things just got worse from there. They really have had one hell of a raw deal.

          • Posted May 13, 2014 at 9:56 am | Permalink

            I’m sorry – we weren’t talking about the front line around Berlin, but the front near Odessa/Kiev when the Nazis had Moscow in their sights.

    • Posted May 13, 2014 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      You also have to keep in mind that the shit runs deep. The mass murders of Ukrainians by the Soviet regime is not some far-away blip. This stuff is fresh in the minds of most people that aren’t either criminal themselves, brain-dead or regressive. They know a good-ol style Russian putsch will leave them exactly where they were before (because they were already there), with no chance for reforms.

  12. Kevin
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Bush should invite Putin over for some horseback riding in Tejas. And if they both feel off they might actually gain a shred of dignity in the last portions of their lives as they could add their names and fortunes to the Reeve Foundation.

    • gluonspring
      Posted May 13, 2014 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      Texas comes from the Caddoan word for “friend”. However, the Caddo were among the first to be wiped out by the early white settlers.

      Sorry, anytime I see “Tejas” I think of the beautiful True Stories introduction (http://bit.ly/1jot9Lj). I grew up in a town identical to the fictional Virgil, TX.

  13. Daniel del Valle
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Putin wants to revive czarism and Russia’s old borders. He despises the West and is on the same level as his friend Assad in Syria. He has given free reign and power to the Russian Orthodox Catholic Church, as it was during the czar, and consequently antisemitism is on the rise.
    The short version is that he is an oligarch and a thug. If anyone can defend this, then they choose to ignore George Santayana’s warning: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

  14. Posted May 13, 2014 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Are the circumstances in the Ukraine now such that it is not a good idea to hold a referendum? Yes, definitely, for many reasons. Does that imply—as many pundits would have us believe—that a fair, transparent, internationally supervised referendum would not result in a large majority who favour separation? No, it does not. So, yes, the referendum now is a bad idea and one can’t trust its outcome, but that doesn’t mean that the outcome itself does not reflect the majority view.

    Note that almost all politicians, in all parties and in all countries, are opposed to such referenda as a matter of principle. To me, this seems very anti-democratic. Yes, it shouldn’t be conducted under conditions such as those in the Ukraine now, but the opposition covers all such referenda, even in times of peace. Many politicians stated this before the outbreak of violence in the Ukraine.

    Surely it is the very essence of democracy that the people in a region should be able to decide to which country they should belong! Especially since current borders are often the result of war and in some cases (think Kurdistan) were constructed with no input from the population.

    The usual argument goes “if we support a referendum here, then we will have to support one in the Basque country, in Catalonia, etc, etc” to which I say “Why not?”

    In this particular case, Crimea is part of the Ukraine because of a last-minute decision by Cruchov. IS this really the politics one should be defending?

    Yes, Putin is not a nice guy and yes this is a bad time for a referendum. But please don’t imply that the majority do not want separation and please support the right of every people to decide which country they want to belong to.

    One Ukrainian politician said “We should have defeated these separatist terrorists by now, but we couldn’t since they are supported by hundreds of thousands of civilians”. Go figure.

    • Posted May 13, 2014 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      ” But please don’t imply that the majority do not want separation”

      That is, the majority in Crimea and in the Eastern Ukraine.

      So what if the majority of the Ukraine doesn’t want separation! The deciding point is what the majority in a given, well defined region wants. Otherwise it’s like gerrymandered districts in the US where you have, say, 1/3 black and 2/3 white population but the 3 districts are such so that these fractions are also the fractions in each district, with the result that all 3 representatives are white, even though 1/3 would have voted black. (A: This is a simplified example; of course blacks can vote for white and vice versa, but you get my point. B: Of course this could be solved by proportional representation, but the US wants to stick to the 2-party system, which is not much better than a 1-party system.)

      • Posted May 13, 2014 at 9:50 am | Permalink

        Agree. In Dec, 81 per cent of the east disapproved of the Maidan protest. How do they feel now, that the protestors are now the US installed quasi-fascist junta, dozens massacred by government supporters in Odessa, 21 killed in Mariupol and another building torched, people shot to death while trying to vote, and Ukrainian forces attacking their own people? And the results were supported by exit poll.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted May 13, 2014 at 10:32 am | Permalink

          This is the second time I read this “installation”. Give evidence, or desist.

  15. Posted May 13, 2014 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    The demonization of Putin is a distraction from the fact that large segments of the east and south reject the US installed quasi-fascist junta that is in charge of Ukraine. Putin’s actions have been reactive, not aggressive. This whole mess was brought on by US and EU intransigence and push to bring NATO into Ukraine. Don’t blame Putin.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted May 13, 2014 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      I’m a member of EU, and as far as I know we didn’t brought any intransigence. Ukraine searched up EU to discuss joining, likely because it is part of Europe.

      For that matter, I’m from Sweden. So Rus, our old colony, has separated from _us_. =D

      To round off, it is obvious to people that have access to media that US late involved. They were involved after the Ukranians had ousted their criminal (well, in his younger years) and corrupt president that threatened to turn away from the European market into the Russian one by, well, corruption: Ukraine was sold to the highest bidder. And the main reason they started to take action was that Russia started to threaten Ukraine, and indeed forced their border and stole Crimea. If US, then NATO because of the military actions and continued threat, didn’t get involved then, when should they ever get involved?

      As long as we have nations we need nations respect other nations. Russia doesn’t, obviously.

      • Posted May 13, 2014 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

        In November, Ukraine was getting a hard time from Putin about the EU agreement. Yankovich and the Rada asked that Russia be included in the negotiations. The EU refused, forcing Yankovich to choose between the two.
        Then in February, the West brokered an agreement with the protestors for early elections and an end to violence. Protestors agreed then reneged. Instead of standing behind the agreement, the EU and US welcomed the revolution and the new junta leader was Yats, as for ordained by Nuland.

      • Posted May 15, 2014 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

        To round off, it is obvious to people that have access to media that US late involved. They were involved after the Ukranians had ousted their criminal (well, in his younger years) and corrupt president that threatened to turn away from the European market into the Russian one by, well, corruption: Ukraine was sold to the highest bidder.

        -“The Ukrainians” did not support revolution:

        http://www.iri.org/sites/default/files/2014%20April%205%20IRI%20Public%20Opinion%20Survey%20of%20Ukraine,%20March%2014-26,%202014.pdf

        p. 39

        I strongly doubt the U.S. was not, whether directly or indirectly, involved in Euromaidan since at least November.

    • Frank Stabile
      Posted May 14, 2014 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      A “US installed quasi-fascist junta” is a pretty serious claim. Any evidence for that?

  16. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Taking back Crimea, after 2 (!) generations, just because Putin thinks it was given away on a whim (as opposed to, say, stabilizing the area), and perhaps sending groups tentatively identified as Spetsnaz into Ukraine, is highly hypocritical. Putin defends Syria with that national borders should be respected.

    As for the referendum, it is illegal says our local politicians. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but it is against Ukranian law AFAIU, and so it is in some, many or most nations. (That’s why separation is often such an ad hoc procedure, I gather. See Scotland recently.) There are other democratic ways to voice dissatisfaction – there always is.

    The referendum is also corrupted, likely too badly to be of value. Media has image evidence of voters returning to cast another vote once an hour.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 13, 2014 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      Yes, the whole thing is totally illegal – there were so many violations. However, now that it has occurred, what’s next? Putin had advised the pro-Russians in Ukraine not to have the referendum but wait until May 25 for the voting….I suppose May 25 will tell us more.

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted May 14, 2014 at 5:07 am | Permalink

      Arguably ballot stuffing and repeat voting are amongst the less significant ways in which the ballot was a perversion of democracy. For a ballot to be free and fair, people holding opposing views should be equally able to campaign and vote without fear of intimidation and violence. It would have taken a very courageous person indeed to stand up and campaign for a vote against self-rule. See for example

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ukraine/10822420/The-disappeared-whose-voices-will-be-silent-in-vote-on-self-rule-in-Ukraines-east.html

  17. Stephen P
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    There are actually good reasons for using transparent ballot boxes. They provide protection against the boxes not being empty at the start of polling, and some protection against them filling up suspiciously fast.

    Of course, if one does use them, one must ensure that all ballots are folded in such a way that the votes cast are not visible.

    And there’s nothing else about this “referendum” that I’m going to defend.

    • W.Benson
      Posted May 13, 2014 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      The people voted proudly and CNN filmed the preference. If it hadn’t been filmed, the predictable NYT/CON, uh, CNN news/Faux Network complaint would have been ballot-box stuffing or falsifying results. Admittedly, the balloting was only indicative, probably off a number of percentage points, but indicate it did.
      Kiev is now sending in their boys from Lviv to stir the pot. As Act 3 of our five act tragedy opens, we are, I’m afraid, going to witness a lot of Catholic military and Orthodox (Kiev and Russian) civilian funerals. If you don’t understand what I am saying, read some more.

  18. Diana MacPherson
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    In my obsession with Russia and learning more about it, I watched Putin’s Victory Day speech complete with the battle cry at the end. As a Canadian I find nationalism & patriotism very unusual. American memorials are usually god invoking and very different from this Russian one but both types to me are quite odd.

    It leads me to wonder if nationalism is truly on the outs (as I’ve pondered before) in the West (with perhaps America being the usual outlier) and Russia, being isolated from the rest of us for generations and therefore remaining insular, isn’t there yet.

    • Greg Esres
      Posted May 13, 2014 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps it’s associated with social dysfunction, just like religion?

      In the US, there is a bit of a contradiction in that those who are most patriotic tend to have the most hostility towards the national government.

    • Muhry
      Posted May 13, 2014 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

      Nationalism in Europe appears to be on the upswing. Concerns over the EU’s immigration policies seem to be a big driver particularly at a time when the economy is poor.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted May 13, 2014 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

        Ah crap, well there goes my idea. Maybe it is a symptom of just plain tribalism & something we do when we feel threatened then.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted May 14, 2014 at 1:52 am | Permalink

          “The last refuge of a scoundrel”. Oh, wait, that was patriotism. Same thing, pretty much.

          Or maybe the refuge of people who feel under threat and can’t think of anything better to do.

  19. Heather Hastie
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    I agree completely with your characterization of this referendum. Another reason it cannot be considered fair is the propaganda that saturates the region from Russia. One of the first things that the separatists did was take control of broadcast masts to ensure locals didn’t have open broadcast media access. The same tactic was used in Crimea where in the weeks running up to their vote, almost all broadcast media came from Russia. Russian media, is, of course, highly partisan on these issues. Opinions contrary to Putin’s are not tolerated. It is not possible to make a free choice without open debate and access to accurate information.

    • Posted May 13, 2014 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

      “Last month, broadcasts from the Russian channels of Channel 1, RTR Planet, Rossiya-24, and NTV-Mir were banned in Ukraine.

      The National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council of Ukraine said the Russian channels’ coverage of the recent events in Ukraine, including the political crisis and Crimea’s reunification with Russia, harms national security.”

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted May 14, 2014 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

        In many ways that makes my point – free and open debate about what is the best option for the people is not possible. All sides are apparently restricting access to information. Actual physical violence is used against those who disagree and propaganda, misinformation and bribery are commonplace. Whatever happens, too many innocents will suffer.

  20. W.Benson
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Is the Kiev junta using helicopters with UN markings in eastern Ukraine?

    https://vk.com/video-55921885_168548518?hd=0&t=

  21. Posted May 13, 2014 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    As for Crimea, it’s shocking to listen to people condemning the right of a people to self determination. A recent Pew Poll said 89% of Crimeans want the junta to recognize their annexation, thus confirming the referendum. Their is a long history of Crimea separatist aspirations until the Kiev government abolished the Crimean constitution in the 90’s.

  22. madscientist
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    The Pew poll is consistent with the state of things 10 years ago; more that half of those who identify as Russian see no reason for Ukraine to be part of Russia, even though they aren’t treated quite the same as people who identify as Ukranian. As the CIA have done for decades, the Russians have apparently trained and armed a sizable group of Russians who are for annexation. I wonder how long that has been going on – is it a reaction to Dubbyah’s ABM shield or has it been going on for even longer? At any rate, Ukraine is screwed. I wonder if Putin has any similar plans for Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia – then Kaliningrad can be part of the contiguous USSR again. Oops – I mean Russia.

    • Posted May 14, 2014 at 12:03 am | Permalink

      In 1994, Crimeans elected a president based on his promise to ask Russia for annexation. Subsequent to that, the Kiev government abolished the Crimean presidency and constitution.

  23. Darkwhite
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 5:29 am | Permalink

    The point of bringing up the US’ past and very present international misdeeds – invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan, bombing of Libya, to keep the list short and current – is not that anything goes. Individual transgressions are not a carte blanche for sadism.

    But evils do sometimes excuse, force or at least pave the way for other evils, which is essentially the principle of justified self-defence. Drawing the boundaries is difficult, as can be seen from how Bush excused his invasion of Iraq as a sort of pre-emptive first strike against the threat of weapons of mass destruction is the hands of a mad dictator. But this is also a balancing act we must do.

    The point is an exceedingly simple one; for international law and human rights to carry any real weight, they must apply without exceptions. It is easy to see that free speech only for some opinions is not free speech, and defending free speech selectively is not winning half the battle, it is underhanded hypocrisy which loses the whole war, by hollowing out the very principle we pretend to be defending.

    If it was possible to consider the US’ and Russia’s international policies in some sort of perfect vacuum, two completely independent organisms, criticizing Russia would be much more pertinent. But that would be ignoring the realities. While the US showcases utter disregard for international law whenever it serves their interests, invading countries on false pretexts and supporting military coup regimes, no country will accept being held to an entirely different standard themselves. Those who push the principles of democracy and national sovereignty and expect them to be respected by others, must at the very least themselves adhere to them.

    And this is why the demonization of Putin’s recent actions, from an American citizen who more or less idly watches as his country rapes international law in the Middle East, rings exceedingly hollow. It is the exact same complacency which allows Putin to cowboy the so-called Russian interest sphere with the general support of his citizens.

    • Frank Stabile
      Posted May 14, 2014 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      The US “rapes international law in the Middle East”? I’d never say the American track record there is perfect, but that is a bit of an extreme. And comparing the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan (two broken states, one with a leader who committed genocide) to Russia’s slow motion destabilization of Ukraine (a functioning state with some recent protests that became violent) seems incorrect. Even if it was true that America “rapes international law”, it is still a non sequitur. It does not mean the US (and countries around the world) cannot or should not oppose what is happening in Ukraine.

      • Posted May 14, 2014 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

        The United States of America and the EU are directly responsible for destabilizing Ukraine. Such as, in November the EU refused Yankovich’s and the Ukrainian parliament’s request to include Russia in agreement negotiations, which forced Yankovich to choose between EU and Russian aid. When Yankovich chose Russia, protests ensued.
        The US has and is currently “raping international law” in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somolia, Yemen. Libya at least.

        • Frank Stabile
          Posted May 15, 2014 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

          So the EU refused to include Russia in the negotiations and protests resulted from Yanukovych’s decision to move towards Russia (he could have chose the EU). And those protests became violent and people died. After he left, things were relatively stable. Only when mysterious, trained troops arrived did the instability begin. Trade negotiations are standard parts of international relations; the EU did nothing to directly destabilize Ukraine (and the US was not even involved in that trade agreement). Additionally, saying that the US “rapes international law” in the Middle East is not evidence, just a restatement.

  24. Posted May 15, 2014 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Sunday’s “referendum” about the fate of eastern Ukraine was, as many predicted, a complete sham.

    -No doubt.

    That, of course, was the plan of the thug Putin, who intends to bring that part of the country under Russian control, if not a part of Russia itself.

    -Perhaps, perhaps not. I’ve never seen a good reason floated for Russia annexing a whole bunch of Ukrainians, but the concentration of the troubles to Eastern Ukraine might indicate a long-run strategy for Putin to get parts of Eastern Ukraine under his indirect control. Or it might just be that the troubles are equivalent in purpose and function to the U.S. sanctions on Russian officials in the aftermath of the Crimea annexation-they may simply be meant as a small coercive protest measure. The Putin-supported troubles are, like the U.S. sanctions, disruptive and rash-seeming, but can hypothetically be removed at any time.

    that resembles the actions of Hitler before WWII.

    -This is mere Godwinning. The only reasons Hitler is considered a particularly evil figure in world history are the Holocaust and the invasion of the U.S.S.R. If he had not condoned these, his reputation might have been more like that of Napoleon.

    Some day we’ll find out that Putin is an oligarch in every sense: not just a monomaniacal tyrant who wrestles bears, but one who has enriched himself at the expense of his people.

    -Probably. Russia is much too corrupt for this not to be the case.

    If any Western country tried this kind of shenanigans, they’d be roundly excoriated for imperialism.

    -The closest parallel I can think of would be with the Netherlands and South Africa, in which case charges of imperialism would, indeed, fly through the air.

    I continue, like most Russian-speakers, to support the Crimea annexation, though I oppose, but am not too worried about, the troubles in Eastern Ukraine.

  25. Posted May 16, 2014 at 11:23 am | Permalink

  26. Posted May 16, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink

  27. Mark Leitner
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Here is an article that gives some historical context to the current situation in the Ukraine, and explains why democrats have made common cause with some far-right elements against the Russian influence:

    http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117692/fascism-returns-ukraine

    Timothy Snyder wrote Bloodlands, a well-regarded comprehensive history of how the regimes of Hitler and Stalin slaughtered more than 14 million people.


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