Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hope For Ukraine

"We are seeing a triumph of pro-European forces and a collapse among pro-Russian parties. Ukrainian people see their future in Europe, and this is something that all Ukrainian politicians will have to account for."
Mikhailo Mischenko, analyst, Razumkov Centre

"A constitutional majority -- more than three-fourths of voters taking part in the election -- have powerfully and irreversibly supported a European course for Ukraine. Any delay in reform will spell a certain death. So I expect the quick formation of a new coalition."
"For that I congratulate you [break with the Communist past]. The people’s judgment, which is higher than all but the judgment of God, has issued a death sentence to the Communist Party of Ukraine."
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko

Sunday's election has resulted in no communists whatever gaining a seat in Ukraine's new parliament, a first and perhaps final break with Moscow. President Poroshenko's party has secured a narrow win, short of a majority, while Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's Popular Front came in close behind. Since they share pro-Western postures this is the desired result of the long-awaited parliamentary election. The die is well and truly cast.

The Rating Group Ukraine exit poll claimed the Poroshenko Bloc won 22.2% of the votes, the Popular Front 21.8%. Both campaigned on reform agendas to bring Ukraine back from economic ruin, and they are prepared to join  with other reform oriented groups, forming a broadly pro-European coalition.

The fly in that ointment is that three million potential voters were unable to cast their votes in eastern regions of the country. There unrest reigns supreme, with government troops battling it out daily against the pro-Russian separatists. And there resides another dramatic story in the June 17 capture of 33-year-old Nadia Savchenko, a career soldier who became Ukraine's first female combat helicopter pilot.

She had been in Independence Square in Kyiv during the revolution. Latterly, surrendering to the frustration of not being deployed with the regular armed forces against the rebels, she took leave from her squadron as Senior Lieutenant, and travelled to the east, where she offered her services to one of several volunteer militias, the Aidar battalion.

A defence lawyer believes Savchenko's possible election to the Ukrainian delegation to PACE may affect her fate.
When she was captured by separatist fighters of the "Luhansk People's Republic", she was transferred to Russia. Prosecutors there charged her as an accessory to murder, claiming she directed a mortar attack killing two Russian journalists. Her Russian defence lawyer, Ilya Novokov, presented witness testimony and mobile phone location data to show she had been too far away to have directed the mortar fire.

Aside from the fact that she was captured some 90 minutes before the journalists died.

"The only way she will be released is by personal decision of Vladimir Putin. And given that, we think her participation in the elections can only help", Mr. Novokov explained. Yes, Ms. Savchenko made the decision to run for parliament "We received a lot of offers from a lot of parties", he sister Vera explained. "So, via the lawyers, we spoke to her and agreed we would go with the one she trusted most. She chose Tymoshenko because she likes her, she used to vote for her."

Now, the hope in some circles is that Vladimir Putin will be more likely to release her. It's a fond one, but not one universally shared; more likely she will be forced to remain where she is in a psychiatric unit. She will remain a national hero, even while the new unified, Western-looking Ukrainian parliament will have to contend with the old guard reluctant as ever to make common cause with Europe.

Proving that old adage that the more things change the more they stay the same.

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