Friday, March 31, 2006

I'm watching Savik Shuster's Svoboda Slova show: Karmazin, who for some reason ran on his own and, naturally, failed to get in, is having a serious fight with Davydovych, current head of the Central Election Commission. All politicians gathered in the studio today are not satisfied with the results of the count (most of them, if not all), and Davydovych is lucky to be watching it and communicating with his opponents from afar - he'd end up getting his ass kicked if he were in the studio.

Karmazin and Davydovych were talking at the same time, and I really don't understand what their point was.

Inna Bogoslovskaya claims a great number of sacks stuffed with ballots have been found dumped away in a few cities. Davydovych says a few sacks that indeed have been found somewhere contained local elections ballots, not the Rada ones.

I found the remains of this sticker on a park bench today:





The face is Serhiy Kivalov's - aka Kidalov, pidrahui! - and the text says he has to be in jail. Signed by Pora (not sure which one, the party or the movement.)

He's in parliament now, however, or will soon be there, as he is #27 on the Party of the Regions' list.

Obviously, this is one of the reasons I didn't vote for Yushchenko's Our Ukraine Bloc in this election.

For those who read Ukrainian, here's a hilarious explanation of the voters' choices.

It's not really Ukrainian all the time, actually: the guy often switches into a kind of phonetical spelling that imitates both bad Ukrainian and bad Russian, and sometimes he's writing in that special lingo in which such words as roblyat' and lyublyat' are intentionally misspelled (letter 'd' replaces 't') and express the author's attitude to the actions described, as well as the original meaning.

Anyway, to read it, you need to be familiar with the two languages and other Ukrainian realities. But it's hilarious.

Photos from Ivanovo Orphanage here and here.

A group of wonderful Muscovites visited this orphanage on March 19 (not for the first time) and delivered toys, clothes, medicines, juices, etc.

Lots of info (in Russian) on how to help Russian orphanages is here, at the site called Dobrodel.ru.

***

An excerpt from the Q & A section of Dobrodel.ru:

I don't have much money - can I donate only 50 rubles [less than $2]?

For 50 rubles, it's possible to buy 10 pairs of socks, or 14 soap bars, or 5 bottles of kids' shampoo... Is this not a lot?

Thursday, March 30, 2006



Party of Regions - 8,144,485 votes - 186 seats
Yulia Tymoshenko's Bloc - 5,648,345 votes - 129 seats
Our Ukraine Bloc - 3,536,459 votes - 81 seats
Socialist Party - 1,439,624 votes - 33 seats
Communist Party - 928,501 votes - 21 seats

Turns out Moroz hasn't signed the coalition memorandum yet, despite what Mykola Rudkovsky said yesterday. He's waiting, just like the rest of them.

Yaroslav Davydovych is also waiting - he hasn't had a single contact with the press today, nor have his colleagues.

99.99% of the votes have been counted; Vitrenko's still lagging behind, thank God.

She's demanding a recount, and so do Viche, Pora-PRP, NDP and Lytvyn's Bloc.

Yulia held a press conference today - looked very alert, serious and decisive, with very little of her usual girliness. She also has some complaints about the fairness of the election and the count - but she spoke more about forming the coalition.

Rinat Akhmetov held a press conference, too, today, and sounded like a fool: he joked he'd head a committee on fighting organized crime in the new parliament.

Chernovetsky looked tipsy as he toured the Kyiv City Council building today. It's painful to watch him, now that he's almost our mayor - every time he speaks, I keep catching my breath, awaiting yet another fluff, like what he said to and about the City Council journalists the other day. Getting used to him will take some time.

Leonid Chernovetsky, our "potential mayor" (as Ukrainska Pravda calls him), started his campaign a while ago by setting up a dining hall and other free services for the poor. He seems like a jerk otherwise, and his unexpected victory resembles that of Hamas a lot (thanks for the analogy, mama): while everyone's busy with abstract talk, waste of paper and large-scale stealing, he chose to spend a little bit of his money on something many people would be really grateful for - and won.

My Belarus posts at Global Voices, yesterday and today.

***

LJ user litota_ posts photos from a flash mob that took place at Oktyabrskaya Sq. in Minsk yesterday: to protest the lies of Belarusian state TV, a group of young people put scarves over their eyes and pretended to watch the news broadcast on a huge screen above.

***

19. People's Blog on Presidential Election reports (RUS) that Mariusz Maszkiewicz, former Polish ambassador to Belarus, has been moved from prison to a hospital, possibly for emergency treatment of a heart attack. Maszkiewicz was jailed for his participation in the March 25 protest rally in Minsk and subjected to harsh treatment.

***

Andrei Khrapavitski translates an entry by LJ user wolny on the mysterious public absense of the Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko.

***

br23 blog reports on how Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic, was denied entry by the Belarus Embassy in Prague when he wanted to deliver a letter of protest. The incident reminded him of 1979, when Tom Stoppard and Harold Pinter were protesting his own imprisonment, but were told to drop their letter of protest into the Czechoslovak Embassy's mailbox.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I don't feel like writing, but here's just one thing: I'm really tired of squeezing myself and Marta between cars parked on sidewalks. I take pictures of some of them now, to calm myself down.

The city's not ready for so many cars, and I don't really blame the drivers - even though I can't pretend I don't hate them. I wonder if the new mayor (Chernovetsky, most likely) is planning to do something about it.





It is finally spring here - yesterday was the first time I wasn't wearing a hat during our walk. And there are so many people in the park, it's hard to find a vacant bench. Kyivans' favorite pastime - to sit in the park, sip beer and chat...

I don't feel like writing today.



Abdymok posts some background info on Kyiv's new mayor:

deputy in second fatal auto accident
november 6, 2003
kyiv post

parliament deputy leonid chernovetsky was behind the wheel of a mercedes that struck and killed a pedestrian late nov. 2, his press secretary has confirmed.

the man killed is the second pedestrian killed by a mercedes linked to the kyiv-area deputy and honorary president of pravex-bank on the same stretch of road in less than seven months.

the unian news service reported that the latest fatality occurred at about 11 p.m. on nov. 2 on stolychne shose, where another mercedes registered to pravex bank struck and killed 10-year-old maksym prokopchuk last april 15.

the driver of the car that killed prokopchuk abandoned the vehicle and fled the scene of the accident. no charges have been filed in the boy’s death.

[...]

kateryna shapoval, chernovetsky’s press secretary, told the post on nov. 4 that the deputy had not been arrested in the latest death, but confirmed that chernovytsky was driving the automobile when the accident occurred.

“chernovetsky called the police himself,” shapoval said.

she said that the mercedes involved in the latest accident was not the same vehicle that struck and killed prokopchuk.

in both deaths, chernovytsky’s representatives have attempted to place responsibility on the victims.

in prokopchuk’s death last april, pravex-bank spokeswoman tetyana salnikova said that the accident was not the driver’s fault.

“[it] was an accident caused by the carelessness of the victim,” she said.

prokopchuk, a fifth grade student, was killed within 100 meters of kyiv school no. 151 in a clearly marked pedestrian crossing at about 9:20 p.m. a traffic signal at the crossing was not working at the time, however. [...]

Here're my Global Voices entries on Belarus from today and yesterday.

***

Rush-Mush links to a LiveJournal translation of the diary of Dasha Kostenko, a Minsk protester who has recently been sentenced to ten days in jail.

***

LJ user kapitan_tanaka translates a letter written by Valyantsina Palyavikova and Larysa Bukholenka, two female prisoners who were jailed for their participation in the post-election protest in Minsk.

***

German-language Media-Ocean switches into English to write about a short video from a polling station in Belarus, which conveys repressive atmosphere during the count and shows how one observer, despite being barred from the table with stacks of bulletins on it, catches a violation that could've benefited Aleksandr Lukashenko, the acting president. The transcript's English-language translations are here.

***

Tobias Ljungvall sums up last week's events in Belarus and makes some forecasts.

***

Ivan Lenin of Rush-Mush translates a post by a Belarusian LJ user on the injuries incurred on the protesters in Minsk during the March 25 rally.

***

br23 blog writes about Belarus' KGB posing as the US embassy and beating an opposition activist unconscious.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

How interesting: Lukashenko's inauguration has been postponed, but it's not clear till when. It was supposed to take place this coming Thursday, March 30 (via Gazeta.ru, in Russian). (Update: no, it was supposed to be Friday, March 31; don't know what got into me when I was writing that. Also, I've read that he appeared on TV later today and demanded that public officials remove his portraits from their offices - "a small photo would be enough," he said.)

These photos are from a reader who was in Minsk last week. The whole set is also posted on Flickr - here - and you may choose an option there to view the photos in their original size.


"These people were frozen. They had spent the night holding hands, locking arms, swaying, dancing and sometimes singing along softly to Viktor Tsoi cds. The building behind them is where the election commission announced Lukashenko's official victory, and where Lukashenko gave his confrontational press conference on March 20. The sign in the front row says 'Freedom'."



"Milinkevich addresses the tent camp. One of the signs behind him was a little chilling, or funny, depending on your mood when you look at it. He is a brave man."



"This was Kazulin at the gate of the pre-trial detention center in Minsk, where he was meeting with the friends and families of the protesters detained on October Square last Friday. The next day he was arrested himself."



"Family and friends flash victory signs in support of the detained demonstrators as they are moved from the pre-trial center. The detained initially flashed back the victory sign and smiled, but then instantly fell silent as a group, and looked straight ahead, as if their guards had given them a sharp warning."



"One young woman was arrested while standing outside an internet cafe near October Square on Monday, as the tent camp was formed. She was released after three days, and returned on Friday to the prison walls to hand out letters from other detainees she had taken out when released."



"By Thursday night on October Square, the opposition's sense of confidence, and public displays of support for it, was starting to grow. The crowd was larger that night, and more cars honked as they drove past. The police always tried to pull over cars for honking, and in this case, as they got the driver to the curb, people rushed from the sidewalk and crowded around the GAIshnik, shouting him down. The GAIshnik let the driver go. There was a small sense that the opposition's determination was spreading, and that it was able to influence the police. A few hours later the tent camp was smashed."



"A member of the spetsnaz that cleared October Square early Friday. This guy was on the perimeter about 50 yards away, part of a line assigned to keep the foreign journalists at that distance until the demonstrators were loaded onto the trucks. State TV was of course allowed in to film the events among the police. It seemed they held the foreign press away just long enough to plant 'evidence,' including pornography, drugs, syringes and alcohol. The 'evidence' of the demonstrators' debauchery became a prominent part of state news TV coverage."



"The commander of an Interior Ministry Spetsnaz passes a young man they have just trampled and beaten as they rushed and cleared the sidewalks on Independence Avenue. This was a few hours before the worst violence, but during the escalation. Generally, the police were not interested in arresting people in the first hours. They mostly just whacked them and chased them away."

Here's Mishah's reply to one of the commenters - it's too good to be banished to the comments box.

nona,

52% is about the same that Yusch got on the presidential election. Even slightly bigger. I don't see how he gets more with current state of things. If you sum up all the orange votes at 63.08% you get even less than 52. So the split is about the same as it was during the presidential election.

This country wasn't, isn't and won't be divided East-West. because Chernigiv, Poltava and Sumy are neither West nor Center of the country. This division is more accurately described as division by the borders of Kievan Rus. even Malorossia+Galychyna vs. Novorossia seems closer. You may also call it the division at where ukrainians live and where non-ukrainians live. Not in ethnical sense of course.

As a voter of Pora I don't care if part of my vote goes to Yanyk. This country is divided. Since Yusch did not let them go during the revolution, did not grant autonomy to this Novorossia or PiSUAR thing, the only I guess remaining way to form a new ukrainian nation that will include people of Donetsk or Odessa is to dogovoritsa with them. If coalition between NU and RoU is needed so let it be. Even though this RoU consist of and is headed by thieves and former and future criminals - so let it be. Almost half of my fellow citizens voted freely for thieves and criminals being fully aware of that. We did not let them form their own state or joint their beloved Russia, now we have to live with them. So our children won't use terms "us" and "them".

I see two main reasons of Pora-PRP's (and Klitchko) defeat. First is the campaign. Their maxim percentage might be 6-8 of young self-reliable center-right liberals disappointed with the leaders of the revolution, not the revolution itself. The thing that only by announcing themselves running for the Rada they got 1.8% rating within a week was a sign of a very good potential. Their campaign unfortunately was done like they are aiming at least 15% of very wide range of voters. Use of "TAK!" and even orange was a mistake because it was same as saying "there's no difference between us and NU so why vote for us". I'm not even sure if they needed Klitchko. The second problem was the lines at the polling stations. While standing there, I've seen a lot of "young self-reliable center-right liberals" leaving because of these lines. The only line most of them could bare to stand is the line at the passport control in Boryspil.

So I turned on the 9 am news but instead got Sergei Parajanov's Ashik Kerib on a wrong channel (K1, I guess it's called). A wonderful reminder that there's life beyond the Ukrainian parliamentary election.

***

Seems like all the old faces remain, and one of the few new ones we get is the new Kyiv's mayor, Leonid Chernovetsky, and his isn't the nicest face out there, but we'll see. He ran for president in 2004, by the way, and got 128,037 votes (0.45%). And of course, it won't be correct to say there won't be new faces in the new parliament at all: take Andriy Shevchenko, the TV guy, Yulia's #5, for example, or Ruslana, our EuroVision star, Yushchenko's #5.

Monday, March 27, 2006

50.50% counted, here's the breakdown:

Party of Regions - 27.34%
Yulia Tymoshenko's Bloc - 23.52%
Our Ukraine Bloc - 16.27%
Socialist Party - 6.89%
Communist Party - 3.53%
Lytvyn's Bloc - 2.63%
Kostenko+Plyushch - 2.33%
Vitrenko - 2.27%
Pora-PRP - 1.47%

In Kyiv, only 17.48% of the votes have been counted - most likely because the mayor's race is considered the priority now, despite a law that says that the parliamentary votes have to be dealt with first of all.

Mishah sent me this screenshot - poor Ukrainska Pravda...

Yushchenko is waiting for the final results before he begins coalition negotiations.

So is Yanukovych.

(via Ukrainska Pravda, here and here, in Ukrainian).

***

26.62% counted, here's the breakdown:

Party of Regions - 26.57%
Yulia Tymoshenko's Bloc - 23.39%
Our Ukraine Bloc - 16.87%
Socialist Party - 7.27%
Communist Party - 3.46%
Lytvyn's Bloc - 2.74%
Kostenko+Plyushch - 2.45%
Vitrenko - 2.12%
Pora-PRP - 1.39%

Turchynov was wrong last night and Our Ukraine wasn't planning to sign a coalition agreement with Yulia and Moroz today at 11 am, according to Ukrainska Pravda.

This was announced by Our Ukraine member Borys Bezpalyi at Channel 1+1 Monday.

"If someone else is announcing Our Ukraine's actions, it's not us. Tomorrow you'll announce our flight to Mars," he noted.

"We didn't schedule anything for 11 am Monday at the Ukrainian House," he emphasized.

He has also emphasized that Our Ukraine is a political party where certain decisions are made collectively.

"The situation is being discussed now, and on its basis there'll be discussions and decisions will be taken," he noted.

19.12% counted, here's the breakdown:

Party of Regions - 25.60%
Yulia Tymoshenko's Bloc - 23.60%
Our Ukraine Bloc - 17.22%
Socialist Party - 7.71%
Communist Party - 3.41%
Lytvyn's Bloc - 2.81%
Kostenko+Plyushch - 2.5%
Vitrenko - 2.01%
Pora-PRP - 1.36%

It'll be sad if Pora-PRP don't get in, but I don't regret having voted for them.

Yushchenko and Yulia had so much public support in 2004 - and they wiped their asses on it. Since Yushchenko became president, he's made too many counterproductive steps, which at some point became impossible to ignore and seemed to work for the benefit of Yanukovych - or at least let Yanukovych sit back and relax and watch how Yushchenko was killing his high rankings without much external help.

Helping Yushchenko help Yanukovych didn't seem like a good idea. Helping someone with good record and at the same time relatively new to all this circus seemed worth trying.

***

In 1999, everyone voted for Kuchma because they were afraid of Symonenko, the Communist leader. Everyone, including Western Ukraine. Later Kuchma turned from lesser evil into the greatest evil, and millions of people came to really regret their choice.

***

In the States in 2000, instead of blaming half the country that voted for Bush, many people blamed those who voted for Nader for letting Bush win.

Davydovych has just (10:35 am) announced yesterday's turnout: 67.13%.

That's sort of low - or is it?

Stefan, very briefly on my view about the Ukrainian Socialists:

Moroz is a very smart, calculating politician. The way he waited and bargained in 2004 seemed a bit too intense; I called him a slut then.

He made his career during the Soviet times, in the Communist party, and in many ways, he seems no different from people like Kravchuk on one side and Symonenko on the other. The country was called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and I'm not the only person here who treats Moroz with caution and/or is allergic because of his party's name alone.

If I pay high taxes, I want to be sure that there's decent healthcare, etc., and that my money didn't go into some worthless person's pocket - unfortunately, our Socialists do not seem too different from other crooks and from the way they were back in our gloriously Socialist Soviet times, so that's why I wouldn't trust them with my money or pay too much attention to their promises of making Europe out of Ukraine. Maybe in 20 years, when most of them are somewhat younger than I am, but not now and not anytime soon.

Ivan Bokiy, deputy head of the Socialist faction in Rada, produced a long, horribly written article in the #22 (March 2006) issue of their paper, Tovarishch ("Comrade," in Russian), in which he, in the first paragraph, was trying to prove that Yulia Tymoshenko was Jewish, not Latvian, because her father's name was Vladimir Abramovich - it's not pretty, and also, how do I know they aren't gonna re-introduce the natsionalnost line in our passports and start discriminating people accordingly if they come to power?

I have friends who voted for Moroz in previous elections - I don't understand their choice but I do respect it. One of our family members voted for Socialists for her district administration yesterday because they have painted and repaired their building's staircase - that kind of choice I understand and would've done the same. But I don't understand those who vote because they believe Moroz's promises or miss the Soviet past.

Good morning, all.

9.29% counted, here's the breakdown:

Party of Regions - 24.57%
Yulia Tymoshenko's Bloc - 23.90%
Our Ukraine Bloc - 17.13%
Socialist Party - 8.14%
Communist Party - 3.34%
Lytvyn's Bloc - 3.07%

Amazing - it's 3 am here, five hours since the polling stations closed, and they still haven't got the turnout information...

Our Ukraine, Yulia and the Socialists have agreed on a coalition and will sign an agreement at 11 am tomorrow, according to Oleksandr Turchynov (via Ukrainska Pravda).

So what was the point of wasting all that paper on their separate campaigns? What was the use of breaking up so dramatically when they are so eager to reunite now?

It's good, but all these repetitions are just too tiresome.

Plus, I hate Oleksandr Moroz and his Socialist Party. I wouldn't trust them with my taxes, you know, no matter how much they want me to believe they are Socialists in the Swedish sense of the word.

***

Speaking of the Ukrainian Socialists and taxes, I spent a few minutes last Sunday trying to explain to a crazy woman working in a Socialist campaign tent that we were paying taxes to have Khreshchatyk cleaned after the invasion of people like her, with all their papers and shit, and that she had no right to tell me not to photograph her tent - being photographed was one of the reasons they kept turning Khreshchatyk into a balagan every weekend. She was really rude, really pissed at me, and I also told her not to mar her party's image - even though I believe that she was showing their true face and thus doing good to the whole mankind :)







Central Election Commission's site in English is here.

So far, 0.03% of the votes have been counted:

Yulia - 40.84%
Our Ukraine - 17.04%
Party of Regions - 12.13%

That they won't get into the parliament was one of the main arguments against Pora-PRP: why waste your vote on someone who's not gonna win? I've heard this from many people - and, who knows, maybe these people's missing votes would prove crucial for the bloc.

I did have my doubts, but couldn't bring myself to vote for Yulia or Yushchenko - because of their ugly breakup back in September, mainly. They are both responsible, I think: I used the 'husband and wife' analogy for my mama, too - it's not the husband's fault alone, it's her fault, too, because she should've known better before agreeing to marry him.

And today I was reminded of Vyacheslav Chornovil - it was seven years since his death on Saturday. We used to vote for him in the early 1990s, knowing full well that he wasn't going to win. Our vote was a way of thanking him, I guess, for being the man without whom Ukraine would've been a totally different place (more like today's Belarus, I'm afraid). I don't regret voting for him then - despite what later became of Narodnyi Rukh, and even despite what his sons have turned into (still find it hard to believe, actually, that Taras Chornovil is such a piece of shit).

Same with Pora. Comparing them to Chornovil might appear sacrilegious (though again, nothing can be worse for Vyacheslav Chornovil's memory than what his son Taras has turned into) - but without them and their Maidan contribution, Ukraine would've been something else now. And this is why I don't regret my today's vote, whatever happens next.

Here's the reason I ended up not voting against them all:











This past Wednesday, on my way back home from a walk, I was passing this new blue building on Lypska, which had been under construction since the late 1980s, when I was spending my wild high school years in this neighborhood, mainly in the house next door.

The blue building was finished a year or so ago, and there were always expensive black cars parked near it, but no signs identifying what company it belonged to. On Wednesday, though, I noticed two flags and two plaques (one in English, the other in Ukrainian) on the building, and stopped to take a picture - because - surprise, surprise! - it was the main office of the Party of Regions headed by Victor Yanukovych.

As you can see, a huge guy, a guard, immediately started walking toward me. He told me it was prohibited to take pictures there - I asked him why - he said, "Because" - I asked him why I couldn't take a picture of a building - he replied, "Devushka, vy sami vsyo prekrasno ponimayete" ("Miss, you know why perfectly well yourself.") - I asked why I couldn't take a picture of a building marked as belonging to the Party of Regions - he didn't give me a convincing answer - I told him he was wrong and that anyone, including tourists, could photograph whatever they wanted in the city - he looked at me as if he knew I wasn't a tourist - and I walked off. Marta was with me, in her stroller, and he kept glancing in her direction as we spoke - incredulous, I guess.

Our conversation was calm, and nothing about him except for his size was too menacing. But it was a disgusting experience, still. Here I am, in my city, and some schmuck is telling me what I can and what I cannot photograph - as if I'm shooting inside his apartment and not in the street. Just imagine what life here would be like if all 147 parties registered in Ukraine (or whatever the number is now) start acting like folks from the Party of Regions.

By the time I reached home, I realized that, just like in 2004, voting against them all wouldn't be enough.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

National exit poll results suck.

6 pm
18,000 people
margin of error 0,5-3,2%


Party of Regions - 33,3%
Yulia Tymoshenko's Bloc - 22,7%
Our Ukraine Bloc - 13,5%
Socialist Party - 5,3%
Communist Party - 3,5%
Vitrenko's Bloc - 3,4%
Lytvyn's Bloc - 2,7%


Update: The two other exit polls also suck, though slightly less... (Note to the anonymous commenter: I hope you're not relying on me too much for this info. If you do, please don't.)

FOM-Ukraine:

6 pm
40,000 people
margin of error 0,5%


Party of Regions - 31,4%
Yulia Tymoshenko's Bloc - 22,9%
Our Ukraine Bloc - 17%
Socialist Party - 6,9%
Communist Party - 3,9%
Vitrenko's Bloc - 2,9%
Lytvyn's Bloc - 2,5%


All-Ukrainian Sociological Service:

22,500 people

Party of Regions - 27,5%
Yulia Tymoshenko's Bloc - 21,6%
Our Ukraine Bloc - 15,6%
Socialist Party - 5,5%
Lytvyn's Bloc - 5,1%
Communist Party - 4,7%
Vitrenko's Bloc - 3,2%
Pora-PRP - 2,7%



I've voted - for Pora-PRP in all four categories.

Took me about half an hour, during which Mishah and Marta managed to get all the way to the park, and I had to take a cab to catch up with them. I stood in line with a neighbor, so it wasn't too boring, at least. The two elderly women responsible for signing and handing out the ballots were so exhausted by the time I voted, all they were capable of was joking in a very kind-hearted manner when people in the line were beginning to bitch and complain about waste of time.

Anyway, it wasn't bad at all, definitely not as bad as I had imagined.

***

Here's the vote breakdown for my extended family:

Parliament:

Pora-PRP - 50%
Yulia Tymoshenko's Bloc - 20%
Our Ukraine Bloc- 10%
Volodymyr Lytvyn's Bloc - 10%
Victor Yanukovych's Regions of Ukraine - 10%

Kyiv's Mayor:

Klichko - 70%
Our Ukraine Bloc - 10%
Volodymyr Lytvyn's Bloc - 10%
Victor Yanukovych's Regions of Ukraine - 10%

Kyiv City Council:

Pora-PRP - 50%
Yulia Tymoshenko's Bloc - 20%
Our Ukraine Bloc - 10%
Volodymyr Lytvyn's Bloc - 10%
Victor Yanukovych's Regions of Ukraine - 10%

District Administration:

Pora-PRP - 40%
Yulia Tymoshenko's Bloc - 20%
Socialist Party - 10%
Our Ukraine Bloc - 10%
Volodymyr Lytvyn's Bloc - 10%
Victor Yanukovych's Regions of Ukraine - 10%

---

There are 13 people - of voting age - in our extended family, including myself.

I counted only 10 of them (including myself), because two refused to reveal their choices, and one voted for Pora-PRP, Our Ukraine and Yulia Tymoshenko, but we've no idea where each of these votes went.

I've never met five of these 13 people (something like 38.5%), including the person who has voted for Yanukovych's Regions of Ukraine.

Mishah's just voted in Darnytsia: too many ballots and names on them, bedlam at the polling station, long lines, older people sit and wait for their turn, no young people visible, middle-aged and affluent-looking people enter, look around and leave.

This may affect the results in ways no one's expecting.

***

Mishah's also reporting that some of the ads haven't been taken down, as the law prescribes, by Saturday morning. He saw this one for Yushchenko's Our Ukraine on Zhmachenka St. (the picture's from Instytutska St., taken on March 20, by me) - it imitates a paper with a picture of Yushchenko and Yekhanurov and this headline: "March 26 - the president's team is winning!"



And on Khreshchatyk they've replaced Our Ukraine's orange banners with plain orange ones... Here's a photo from yesterday:

Photos from yesterday by LJ user litota_ are here and here.



There's lots of commentary out there but I don't feel like translating any of it. What happened is best described by pictures: very brave people who don't really look brave, just cheerful, harmless, hopeful, NORMAL - and the police, the men who are no longer men but stinking pieces of shit after what they did with such an abandon yesterday.

There are also those who sit home and shit in their pants, pretending they like what their regime's doing. And those who aren't even pretending. The majority.

Belarus is the Soviet Union.

I'll be posting updates, but later.

Today's the election day in Ukraine. I've got tons of stuff on that and I hope to post some of it tonight.

Copyright either AP or AFP; more images at http://drugoi.livejournal.com/.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

More photos here and here. (Not sure whose copyright they are; the second set is marked (c) Pressensbild.)

As the riot police were throwing percussion grenades at the crowd, the crowd responded with throwing snowballs at the riot police (via lipski, RUS).

A very telling detail. So sad.

It's all over the news now - and I was out walking with Marta and Mishah when it was happening.

Pictures of the clash by LJ user mindoug are here.

There're rumors of casualties.



A rally's taking place at Oktyabrskaya Sq. in Minsk right now. Riot police first surrounded the crowd, then made their way through and split it into two parts.

The protesters are now moving elsewhere - to Yanka Kupala Square, across the street from the circus. Some 3,000 to 4,000 people.

More or less live coverage in Russian/Belarusian is here.

Really good photos from Minsk, posted by LJ user l_u_f_t in the minsk_news community:

Below are my yesterday's Global Voices notes on Belarus.

***

A Fistful of Euros reports on a weird blog called Belarus Today: A News Service Dedicated to Belarus and the Belarusian People. It covers such an unlikely event as Lukashenko's assassination - and its pretty violent aftermath. There's a disclaimer at the bottom of the page, however, which reads: "This website is part of a foreign policy simulation. The events depicted are not actually taking place."

***

Through negligence, LJ user czalex, a foreign citizen once registered in Belarus (1995-96), was registered to vote in this election. He didn't vote, of course, but visited several polling stations as an observer, and noted a few violations (RUS). This photo, for example, shows how it was made impossible for the observers to observe the count of the votes: they had to sit 10 meters away from the table with the ballots.

***

Ivan Lenin - formerly of Minsk, now of New York - translates a post by LJ user lipski, a Minsk resident, on who benefits from the Oktyabrskaya Sq. crackdown, and shares his thoughts on the country's future: "If anything, the West should engage Belarus as much as possible. Isolation would make Belarus more like North Korea."

***

French journalist writing for Liberation has just been arrested in Minsk; actually so many people have been arrested that, unprecedentally, Minsk courts will be working on Saturday, reports br23 blog. Andrei Khrapavitski posts a picture from today's flash mob event that took place in Minsk to criticize the performance of the state-controlled media.

Two anti-Lukashenko rallies planned in Kyiv today: at noon by the foreign ministry, at 1 pm by the Belarusian embassy.

I won't make it to either one: it's 11:20 am and Marta is sound asleep on me.

***

Also, a rally in front of the Belarusian embassy in Washington, DC, today:

11 am - 6 pm
1619 New Hampshire Avenue, NW

(subway: DuPont Circle, red line)

Won't make it there, either :)

***

And in Amsterdam - at noon at Museumplein.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Here's the New York Times account of how it happened:

For a few minutes, as the police awaited the final command, the demonstrators' loudspeaker worked, and one of their leaders ordered the protesters to sit down and hold hands before the police moved in.

They chanted, shouting "The police are with the people!" and "Truth! Truth! Truth!" but offered no resistance visible to journalists, who were ordered by the police to stand about 50 yards away.

The demonstrators were easily outmatched. The police carried away the first few protesters and loaded them onto trucks, and in a few minutes the remainder of the demonstrators, who appeared to be at least 300 strong, left in orderly columns and boarded waiting buses and trucks.

Some raised their fists in defiance as they boarded. The operation was over in less than 25 minutes.

I fell asleep at 1 am, so I missed it all...

Riot police began their operation at 3 am Minsk time and after 15 minutes the camp was demolished and the protesters arrested. br23 blog and Rush-Mush have updates on the aftermath: the amazingly slanted coverage on the Russian-language EuroNews; Minsk residents' approval of the regime's actions; a sample leaflet distributed by the opposition in Minsk now; translation of LJ user kurt-belarus' post-operation appeal; translation of one protester's account of the operation on Radio Liberty's Belarusian Service.

Lj user _frut_ has photos of what remains of the tent camp after the riot police attacked it at night and took away all the protestes.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I've just posted excerpts of Belarusian LJ conversations at Global Voices Online - here.

Zhyve Belarus!

***

While I was writing, Natalya Vitrenko's people have set up their tents - in between Yushchenko's - and turned the music on. Assholes. Because of them, I at one point accidentally deleted a rather big chunk of text and had to re-write. It's impossible to concentrate when stuff like Moya rodina - Sovetskiy Soyuz ("My motherland's the Soviet Union") is blaring outside your window almost non-stop, interrupted only by "Voyna narodnaya, svyashchennaya voyna " ("People's war, holy war"). Jerks.

***

A wonderful comment by estee to my post about Vitrenko a few weeks ago - I should have pulled it out of the comments section a long time ago:

How to explain who the hack Vitrienka is? Hey, Neeka, remember that recent local joke:

«If Vitrienko could take aLL voices speaking in her head, she'd probably reach 3% threshold in upcoming elections»..

Oh, but still some local specific: voice=vote in ukr. :=)


***

Tomorrow's the last day - and then it'll be quiet!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

An interesting photo story about the protest at BelaPAN Internet paper (text is in Russian, but some of the stuff from it can be found in this AP piece in the Guardian).

***

I'm not sure this is mentioned in the AP story - I didn't read it, just glanced through. This is a caption to the photo of green buses and men in black standing next to them, at the end of the piece:

#100 bus stops at Oktyabrskaya Sq. again. Activists get out of the bus and run toward the camp, trying to avoid being detained by the policemen patrolling the square.

A seemingly innocent request from Jahor Shumski, one of the Minsk protesters, gets these kinds of reactions (BEL, RUS):

shumski: Dear drivers! Please support our defiant spirit: honk as you pass Oktyabrskaya Square in the morning. This truly elevates our mood.

anysyst: It's risky... They can fine you, for "making noise within city limits." You should warn people about what they are getting themselves into.

shumski: In the evening, every second car is honking. Maybe it's time to stop being afraid of your own shadow?

arina_skripka: I agree! Almost everyone's being fined. In the evening, there are too many cars for the traffic police to figure out who was honking, but in the morning, they do it right away, no questions... Unjustified risk (imho)

pavietra: I'm ready to donate money for fines, if necessary!

kong_en_ge: There's no fine for it. Warning in the worst-case scenario - read the administrative violations codex.

finder_bel: A question: How to attach a blue ribbon to the car so that it's visible and doesn't contradict the driving rules?

kende_r: I've seen cars with ribbons on their antennas today.


I didn't read Ukrainian LJs in the fall of 2004, but it's still very hard to imagine such a discussion here at that time...

tormozoid's new photos from Oktyabrskaya Sq. are here - taken approximately 1 1/2 hours ago.

Eugene Grabkin has posted wonderful photos from the square - here:


© Eugene Grabkin

Eugene is asking (RUS) how one can get a press card:

I could even provide photos later. ;) Because people are asking where I'm from and what I'm doing?.. And what if I'm from the [state-owned Belarusian TV]?..;)))))


And here're the recommendations (RUS) he's received so far:

Make one yourself, write PRESSA on it, minsk_by and your nickname :)
it'll protect you from the people, I guess :)))

though it may get the cops interested :)

but do write your nickname, to avoid an entrapment where a cop gets himself a similar card, but if there's an unknown nickname on it or an unknown face over a known nickname, it's easier to sort it out :)

[...]

Yeah, write this on it:
Journalist working for the largest Internet publication www.livejournal.com

A few sketches on the atmosphere at Minsk Maidan...

Posted by l-u-f-t (BEL):

People in the tent city [...] need water and gas burners. If any of you can help, please do. It's better not to bring the stuff over, but to throw it out of the car windows. It's safer that way. THEY ARE HOLDING ON THERE FOR ALL OF US!


Posted by alisunya (RUS):

I was there yesterday evening. I've never seen so many real People, sunny, sincere, fearless. Thank you for being the way you are!!!

My friend stayed there till morning. Between 6 and 7 am, she and nine more people (2 guys and 7 girls) were going to the subway station Oktyabrskaya [...]. Riot police were following them, then asked them all to go into a police room at the station. My friend and two other girls merged with people standing in the line for subway tokens, but the rest got detained. The name of one of those detained is Vova, he studies at Glebov Art School (I hope I got the school's name right), the rest of the guys know Vova well and I guess they attend the same school. I've got his cell phone number but the phone's been turned off since before the detention - the battery's dead. [...]


And from Gazeta.ru (RUS):

[...] In the past two days, more than 100 opposition activists have been arrested. The majority of those who are leaving the square are detained by the police right away. Despite this, opposition leaders from the regions continue to arrive at the square. They say that at the commuter train stations near Minsk, the police are checking the passengers' bags and take those who have tents off the trains. [...]

LJ user lipski reported two hours ago that there were 300-400 activists at the square, and that those who were leaving were being detained by the police. Belarusian TV was shooting something there. Milinkevich wasn't at the square - the rumor is he's down with pneumonia.

Radio Liberty reported (BEL) less than two hours ago that the police are beating the protesters who go down into the subway to go home and then return to the square.

There's a picture of one of the boys with an impressive scratch on his body; the boy, Mikhail Avdeev, says the cop who attacked him introduced himself as Vladimir Naumov, interior minister of Belarus, and that he wanted to tear apart the white-red-white flag but failed to and ended up just tying it into knots.

Sounds like a deranged cop to me - but it's not funny at all.

It's also sad to realize how tiny the crowd there is. Pictures at this site - http://news.lyakh.org/ - are shocking...



This one was taken around 9 am today (posted by LJ user tormozoid)...

***

In my dream tonight, Kozulin died and that sort of explained the rumor of his breakup with Milinkevich: they didn't want to reveal his death, didn't want to demoralize the crowd, but people felt something was wrong and kept inventing all sorts of explanations. I'll keep you updated on what's going on in the parallel Belarus...:)

Cops are searching bags of those who take food and drink to the square - but they aren't searching for something illegal, no.

The advice (RUS) for those carrying thermos bottles with tea or coffee for the protesters is to hide them underneath your clothes.

How crazy is that, huh?

Looks like militsiya tam ne z narodom, nazhal'...

Links to protest photos and a video at idridze - including another wonderful set by litota, from March 19.

Ivan Lenin of Rush-Mush comments on the recent breakup between the two opposition leaders, Milinkevich and Kozulin:

Milinkevich has got a wonderful opportunity to create a change, thanks to the courage of the thousands Belarusians who braved the very real threats from Luka and the cold; the tens of thousands of people who overcame fear, despair, and cynicism. It will be a shame if he and his team blow this opportunity, by disgracing himself the way Kozulin just did.


Update: Ivan Lenin has pulled the post referenced above and added a correction:

UPDATE: a good comment by anonimous re: my post about opposition split: there is no split, kozulin’s supporters are on the square. [respect! - IL]


(Thank you, Ethan!)

Looks like they have indeed broken up, Kozulin and Milinkevich. Silly - but maybe it's better this way: I don't know about others, but I still haven't gotten over Yushchenko and Tymoshenko's breakup eight months after their victory. They wouldn't have won if they had split right there at Maidan - but it's just too painful to think that they couldn't find it in them to last together for at least two years, and maybe achieve something visible in that period.

***

Saturday, March 25, is Freedom Day in Belarus. From reading Belarusian LJs, I feel that there's much disappointment - so many people have chosen to stay home; the leaders don't seem ready for peaceful standing around; the evil weather, etc. March 25 may be the opposition's second chance, a second attempt. But there're still four nights to go before that.

***

I wonder how many people who got disappointed in Yushchenko now feel better about him - because of Belarus and the memories it inspires.

***

All those arrests again - Lebedko's one of them. And all the stories of how people get detained by the police when they are trying to take food and water to the protesters. A real blockade - and so different from Kyiv.

***

How long are all the journalists planning to stay in Minsk? Their presence might be one of the reasons Lukashenko's not doing anything crazy. I really hope they (the journalists) aren't going to migrate to Ukraine en masse to cover our election on Sunday. No drama is expected here, just lots of really confusing bullshit - so please do stay in Belarus, dear journalists!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

According to some info, Kozulin has broken up with Milinkevich tonight. Allegedly, they couldn't agree on whether the people should stay at the square for the night or go home tonight. But this may be just rumors as well - or, they'll make it up quietly soon and pretend nothing was wrong.

Every once in a while, someone writes that the troops are about to attack the 'tent city.' Then nothing happens, which is very good. It scares some people away, though.

In Kyiv, there used to be rumors of a few thousand drunk Yanukovych thugs on their way to the 'tent city' - but when you were standing among a few hundred thousand people - sober people - it wasn't scary at all.

Hopefully, rumors will remain nothing but rumors in Minsk, too.

A tiny Ukraine distraction:



"What party's that?" asked Mishah when he saw the picture.

***

I hope to find a couple hours sometime during the week to deal with a ton of new pictures, including those from the balagan that Khreshchatyk was on Sunday.

Fucking sovok:

LJ user lipski reports (RUS) that photos from the Oktyabrskaya Sq. protests have reached the dean's office of Belarus State University's history department: two students from the department are on these pictures, and faculty members are now considering expelling these students. Also, dean's office of the geography department demands lists of all those absent today.

LJ user litota posts March 20-21 photos from the 'tent city' at Oktyabrskaya Sq. in Minsk: Kozulin negotiating with the police; warming up with hot tea; greeting passangers inside public buses; delivering the tents and running away from the police; WC in a tent set up over a sewer hole; people with the banned Belarusian flags on the skating rink.

Wonderful photos.

I had a news story dream tonight: it was a report on how a few Belarusian activists went away from the square for a while to get warm, and by the time they returned, the police had taken down all of their tents, and Milinkevich was really pissed.

System overload in my head, I guess.

***

In real-life Belarus, the protesters have survived the night without major incidents - for Belarusian LJ updates see Ivan Lenin's translations at Rush-Mush/Russian Mushroom.

(An aside: a tiny explanation of this Lenin-Russian-Mushroom (and Sergey Kuryokhin) thing is here: "...Kuryokhin was a controversial figure in his time, once appearing on Russian television to prove that Lenin was not a human being, but rather a mushroom.")

***

And while I'm at it (the musicians), here's a familiar revolutionary theme: Lyavon Volski, a Belarusian rock musician, intends to invite U2 to sing in Belarus (via 19, in Russian).

I hope someone does tell Bono this time that it'd be a fun and useful thing to do. Please.

***

More on Lyavon Volski and his band NRM in this March 2 Guardian piece by Nick Paton Walsh:

There's no official ban on NRM, but it only takes a phone call from the police for the director of the concert hall to cancel a gig, says Volski. "This country reminds me of the USSR in miniature. Now is the time for people who got C-grades at school. Everyone talented has gone abroad. But if I did not think democratic forces could triumph, I would have left long ago," he says.

LJ user lipski writes (RUS) that two groups of around 1,000 people total remain on the square: one group guards the electricity generator and audio equipment, another is by the tents. People who are leaving the square individually, not in groups, are said to be arrested outside the square.

br23 blog reports hundreds of riot police units stationed in the backyards of the buildings adjacent to Oktyabrskaya Sq. The protesters, however, are determined to stay "until the new election date is set, in July." LJ user samuel_smith writes (RUS) that cars with drinking water and food for the protesters are kept from parking at the square by the police. LJ user agafon_bel writes (RUS) that Aleksandr Milinkevich's two sons were detained by police and almost charged with petty hooliganism, but when the police colonel learned who they were, he not just let them go but gave them a ride to the square.

LJ user maty has posted (RUS) March 20 photos from Oktyabrskaya Sq. More to be posted soon.

LJ user maty reports (BEL): "Milinkevich has had negotiations with the police. The police has allowed people to stay at the square. People are chanting "Police With the People" and are setting up tents. Maidan begins."

LJ user lipski reports (RUS) that the riot police demand to turn off the music playing at the square at 11 p.m.; opposition leaders have agreed. People are still encouraged to spend the night at the square. A representative from Mogilyov said that regional delegations are expected to arrive in Minsk. The protesters have asked Minsk residents to bring warm clothes, food and hot tea and coffee to the 'tent city.'

Monday, March 20, 2006

Opposition leaders have declared the March 19 election a coup and are demanding to cancel the results, reported lipski (RUS) a while ago. Also, Milinkevich has asked everyone to stay at the square overnight and all day tomorrow.

STB's reporter thinks there're 10,000 people there now - down from 25,000 earlier tonight. Go figure. One of the chants reported: "Police with the people!"

Not many Ukrainians there - the reporter hasn't met anyone he knows.

(The reporter's name is 'Antin' something: sounds horrible. Do we really translate the name 'Anton'?..)

One of the banners at Minsk Maidan:

This Sweet Word: Ex-President!

LJ user samuel_smith reports: people are leaving because it's cold; a Ukrainian LJ user advises to put something underneath the tents to make them warmer - on the photos, the tents appear to be on the bare ground; a bell is ringing; speakers at the rally include a head of Norwegian Liberal Party and an observer from Russia who was detained by the KGB and almost thrown out of the country.

(Sorry for disappearing - Marta's giving me a hard time trying to fall asleep...)

According to LJ user l_u_f_t , people from the regions are beginning to arrive and five tents have been set up at Oktyabrskaya Sq. already. LJ user samuel-smith writes that "there's a ring around the tents. People surround them so that the police couldn't take them away. From time to time, plainclothes officers approach the people and tell them something. [...] Cups with hot coffee are being distributed." He's also posted a picture of the tents. LJ user lipski wrote half an hour ago that there were now Georgian flags at the square, in addition to Ukrainian, and that people were coming and going, and there are approximately 5,000-6,000 there now.

I'm posting this on Global Voices as well. One comment: 6,000-7,000 doesn't seem like a lot, unfortunately. Either this guy lipski isn't right - or the Channel 5 guy is being overly emotional. If only there existed a reliable way to do such estimates... Or, if only these numbers didn't matter to those who are not there, not with the crowd...

LJ user lipski reports (RUS) from Oktyabrskaya Sq. in Minsk for the second night in a row: weather's good; the square's not blocked; politically active young people decided not to set up a 'tent city' because officials have allegedly confiscated 1,500 tents, but there are plans to put up their own tents, tomorrow or the day after; many flags, including Ukrainian and the EU; many journalists; cars are honking in solidarity; sound is good today - lipski stands across the square from the stage and hears everything; 6,000-7,000 people and this is probably it; tried to put up a tent, but two cops came up and took it away.

Channel 5 reports there are MORE people at Oktyabrskaya Square than there were yesterday!!! The square is packed and more people are coming!!!

According to Channel 5, Lukashenko is holding a prolonged press conference at which the press constitutes about a third of the audience; the rest are government officials.

He sort of promises to let the jailed opposition activists go, says they are should be grateful to the police - not sure for what.

He is an idiotic sight, looks and sounds like a parody on someone Soviet. But very self-assured. And the very Soviet setting - a huge conference hall, the Soviet emblem behind Lukashenko - only reinforce this strange feeling: it's a parody, or deja vu, but it's not gonna go away anytime soon.

Subconsciously, I don't believe the protests in Minsk are gonna work - but how I wish I were wrong!..

I wonder how many more Belarusians would choose to leave their country in the near future - if only because it is very embarrassing to be represented by Lukashenko, to let him represent you for the third term in a row.

Some people really believe Lukashenko's regime was using snow cannons on the protesters yesterday. Sort of like water cannons.

I treated that little thing that lipski wrote as a joke of the desperate, miserable people still very capable of having a laugh, not as a conspiracy theory... The way lipski treated it, I guess:

As for the "snow cannons" - I apologize :-) I only reproduced the rumor that was making rounds among the rally's participants, but I now see that it ended up getting repeated in many places. Even at maidan.org.ua :-) I have to admit, however, that the snowfall was really so heavy that it was easy to believe in the snow cannons and what not.


Here's the maidan.org.ua bit:

21:35

From the roofs, they are shooting artificial snow out of snow cannons, imitating a snowstorm.

You can't see a thing at the square.

But everyone understands that the snow is artificial and continue to stand at maidan. People are laughing because this reminds them of the circus.

The police starts greeting people.

There're over 30,000 people in the square now.


LJ user wolny - who was following the events from New York - wrote in a comment that snowboardists at one of the Belarusian forums said it did look like artificial snow (similar to what they have at a Silichi ski resort) - to which lipski replied that folks from geography department said that the storm was moving from northwest and that three hours before a similar snowfall happened in Lagoisk. Moreover, it was snowing as heavily in other parts of Minsk.

Whatever.

Meanwhile, it has been announced that Lukashenko won 82.6% of the votes. Milinkevich received 6%.

Belarusian Maidan's part 2 is supposed to begin in seven hours.

From a New York Times piece - Belarus Leader Expects Landslide; Protesters Defy Warnings:

Several independent Web sites — including Mr. Milinkevich's, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's and those of two opposition groups, Charter 97 and Zubr — were hacked through the day and shut down entirely, at times, blocking the few independent sources of information on the election results and other news.

State television, meanwhile, offered hours of pro-government fare, including a series of interviews with analysts and observers, including a few Westerners, who praised the conduct of the campaign and the voting today. One observer, who said he was British, said, "There are several things that Great Britain could borrow from Belarus and use for its elections."

Later, as votes were being counted, state television showed unflattering pictures and video of the opposition and its supporters, including photographs of the several youth organizers from a Russian opposition party who came to Belarus to support the opposition here. The men were shirtless, drinking and smoking what appeared to be marijuana.

This was followed by video of two transvestites engaged in a passionate kiss, and a suggestion from the news presenter that the opposition has the support of homosexuals.


The next sentence is vivid, too:

The day, like the campaign, was divided into parallel worlds.


The New York Times numbers are really low, by the way:

That did not stop everyone. About 3,000 protesters gathered at night on a square in the capital's center and chanted in front of the assembled police.

"Long live Belarus!" the [sic] cheered, at times repeating the last name of their candidate. "Milinkevich! Milinkevich!"


Sounds sleepy, doesn't it?



They should be proud of themselves, of course: so many people, not a single casualty.

They should be proud - and continue tomorrow/today.

It's hard to trust the numbers - some say 20,000, others - 3,000. That's now, after most people left and the remaining went to Victory Sq. The initial numbers range from 15,000 to 50,000.

In Kyiv, it was the same - millions, hundreds of thousands - but when you were in the street with all those people, it hardly mattered what someone's estimates were...

The drive's gone, people are disappointed, reports lipski.

But who knows, maybe it'll return: with 22.3% of the ballots counted, Lukashenko has 88.5% of the votes, Milinkevich - 3.8%. If we were talking about Ukraine, it'd sound absurd. Ridiculous. But Belarus isn't Ukraine. Still, these figures somewhat look idiotic... Enough reason for the drive to return...

They do have to do something about the sound, though.

LJ user lipski reports:

People are leaving the square en masse. The reasons: audibility is poor (people do not understand why they are standing there, what is being said and what is to be done afterwards), and it's cold. In an hour-an hour and a half, there'll probably be 1-2 thousand people left.


It's upsetting - but my mama has just reminded me that the rally in Kyiv on the night of the vote was nothing special, either. Then Yushchenko asked people to come over to Maidan at 9 am Monday, and most people had nightmares and insomnia, fearing that no one would come, and of course everyone did rush to Maidan first thing in the morning. (I overslept - because I stayed up till 5 am...)

Here's part of my entry from that day:

We voted, then we walked around for most of the day. After the polling stations closed, there was a pro-Yushchenko rally/concert at the Independence Square, and we stopped there twice, between going somewhere to get warm. The crowd was pretty huge, though not as huge as Nov. 6 - but it was Saturday, not Sunday, then, and it was a lot warmer, and that rally started around noon, not after 8 pm. Still, I've seen quite a lot of kids tonight, and just a few drunks, and people looked happy and decisive, despite the cold. And despite the uncertainty. What I didn't like was some of the music they played (too inferior to be inspiring) and some of the politicians they invited to speak (again, too inferior to be inspiring). (Or maybe I'm just too tired of it all and thus so cranky.)

[...]

It's almost 5 am now. Yushchenko has asked his supporters to gather at the Independence Square at 9 am. I'm not sure I'll make it. I'll try but there's a chance I'll oversleep...


And here's from the day after:

Many, many people still at the Independence Square. I heard a few tell each other how worried they were that no one would show up in the morning (I overslept and in one of my nightmares hardly anyone was at the rally). My mama went there around 9:30 am: says there were already twice as many people as last night, mainly men, but then women appeared, too, and students, and kids. Lots of people, which is very, very encouraging and inspiring. Everywhere, even on the subway, there are hundreds of people with something orange on them, or with Yushchenko's campaign flags.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Photos from Minsk - at Komsomolskaya Pravda-Belarus!

LJ updates in Russian are here - from user lipski:

A rally's taking place on the steps outside the Trade Unions Palace. Milinkevich is speaking, but what he's saying isn't audible. There're no sound amplifiers and they're using megaphones. People stand and actively support the speakers, but further plans can be neither heard, nor understood. Kazulin and Lebedko are also there.

Kalyakin reports that, according to independent exit polls, less than 50% have given their votes for Lukashenko.

People in the crowd are joking about the heavy snow: that's snow cannons :-))

According to Radio Echo Moskvy, there're 24 trucks and 27 buses with riot police in them in the streets leading up to Oktyabrskaya Pl.

Some people have brought flowers to the rally.

Echo Moskvy has this photo on its homepage - I wonder if it's a recent one:

According to Gazeta.ru, there are 20,000 at Minsk Maidan. Milinkevich is there - as well as another candidate, Aleksandr Kozulin.

It's snowing in Minsk. (Channel 5 was reporting live from someplace quiet, not the square.)

Milinkevich has arrived - around 9:30 pm.

Lots of flags - white-red-white Belarusian, Ukrainian, Zubr.

Public transportation isn't taking passangers to the center. Subway trains skip the Oktyabrskaya Pl. station.

Updates in Russian/Belarusian are here.

My *LJ Belarus* hasn't been updated in a while - either LJ's being blocked or everyone's at Maidan. Hope it's the latter.

Andrei Khrapavitski and other sources report that mobile phones of those who are at Maidan now aren't working - maybe they're being jammed, but it's more likely that the network's overloaded, at least this is how it was in Kyiv: cell phones were going nuts. Andrei reports that a Radio Liberty journalist had to file a story using a regular payphone - that's cute.

Various sources report that thousands of people have already come to Oktyabrskaya Pl. in Minsk.

Some 15,000 people, according to Gazeta.ru.

I haven't found any pictures of the Minsk Maidan yet, though.

Here's a Belarusian ballot posted in the Minsk LJ community by someone who's already voted:



The button next to Aleksandr Milinkevich's name says 'I am for freedom.'

Update on Gazeta.ru's earlier report about Minsk center having been cordoned off: no, it is not, according to this post in the Minsk LJ community.

As proof, a link to a live webcamera in Minsk.

Another update: Ukrainian Channel 5 reports that streets leading to Oktyabrskaya Ploshchad - where the opposition plans to hold a meeting at 8 pm - are indeed blocked. (I now have a TV in my room - thank you, Mishah!!! And I'm pretty shocked by the bullshit commercials of the Regions of Ukraine Party... Later: Well, all of them are sort of sickening, actually...)

According to Gazeta.ru, voter turnout as of 10 am Minsk time has been nearly 40 percent. This figure includes the early votes - which, according to earlier reports, many students and soldiers were forced to cast. Early votes are said to be easier to falsify.

According to Gazeta.ru, access to most central streets of Minsk has been restricted by 10 am Minsk time:

[...] Kirova St. and Prospekt Marxa are blocked: cars aren't allowed there. Also, a number of government buildings have been cordoned off by the police. City officials explain that these restrictions are caused by the threats of terrorist acts. They ask people not to use cars when getting to the city center and, if possible, empty backyards of residential building of cars, too.


(Update here.)



Andrei Khrapavitski (ENG) and LJ user Wolni (BEL, RUS) intend to do non-stop blogging of the news from today's presidential election in Belarus.

Another blog to follow is br23 blog - in English and in Belarusian.

br23 blog has listed various resources and news sources on today's election - here.

My LJ and other feeds (ENG, BEL, RUS, UKR) are here - folders BELARUS and *LJ Belarus*.

Unintentionally subtle:





Intentionally vulgar:



Saturday, March 18, 2006

As of March 16, some 550 foreign journalists have been accredited to cover the election in Belarus, according to LJ user idridze (in Russian).

It reminded me of December 2004 in Kyiv, and I went looking for the post in which I mentioned how many foreign journalists were accredited by our foreign ministry then: more than 1,700.

Amazing, but it turned out to be the same post in which I wrote about our encounter with a Belarusian opposition activist living in a "tent city" on Khreshchatyk:

This Belarusian man we talked to was a seasoned opposition fighter, middle-aged, with a few inexplicable scratches on his face. He's been through a 15-day arrest after the recent referendum and through a hunger strike at a preliminary detention center several years earlier, which ended at a hospital emergency room when his kidneys stopped functioning. He said bad things about some Belarusian opposition leader whose name I don't remember - some guy who encouraged people to go to the polls to vote in the bogus referendum, even though the results had been known at least a year in advance. He said he was sure that the current Ukrainian revolution would soon be repeated in Belarus. "If it wasn't for Russia's special services support, Lukashenko wouldn't last a month in Belarus, because most people don't want him there," he said.


I hope everything will end well for all of them over there.

Also, now I understand what it was like to watch Ukraine in 2004 for those who were not here: I'm glued to my computer and I'm really nervous something would go wrong in Minsk on Sunday and there'll be violence and, God forbid, casualties. I'm glued even though nothing's really happening yet, nothing but arrests and intimidation campaign - and endless conversations about that.

Oh, and I still don't know which of the opposition leaders that guy was talking about. Could it be Milinkevich?

Maybe they'll have a Balloon Revolution in Belarus (my Global Voices post):

“[…] Good psychological weapon against the troops” - in order to show the regime they are not terrorists, everyone should come to the rally in Minsk with a toy balloon, suggests LJ user eugene_exe (BEL). Any color would do, but blue is preferable.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Speaking of HIV/AIDS, here's a link to a brochure (in Russian) for schoolkids, published in Kaluga, Russia...



(The page on the left is about gays, the page on the right is about prostitutes.)

This weekend's gonna be crazy - but then it'll all be over.

Here's the schedule (via Korrespondent.net, in Russian):

Saturday, March 18

- Party of the Regions (500 people) - Khreshchatyk

- Our Ukraine and People's Party - Maidan

- Volodymyr Bondarenko/Pora-PRP (20,000 people) - Yevropeyska Ploshcha

Sunday, March 19

- Our Ukraine - Maidan

- Mykhailo Poplavsky (The Third Force) - Maidan

- Green Party - Kontraktova Ploshcha

- Party of the Regions (500 people) - Khreshchatyk

- Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists - Khreshchatyk

- Socialist Party (1,000 people; 200 tents, 4 kids' playgrounds and stages) - Khreshchatyk

I'd pray for lousy weather, to make them all vanish, but Marta and I haven't been for a walk in a very long time. And it's not that you really have to pray for bad weather here - we get it for free, more than we've ever asked for. Damn.

I've posted an overview of blog coverage of Milosevic's death here, on Global Voices Online. There's even a Belarusian view, translated from Belarusian:

[…] I turned on the news on STV and went to the bathroom. When I came back, there was Lukashenko’s picture on the screen, and the host was saying: “A prominent political leader has passed away…” Well, I was about to run to get some champagne, but it turned out to be nothing but a quote from a condolences letter sent by our president on the occasion of Slobodan Milosevic’s death. […]

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Marta's 3 1/2 months today!

Ukrainska Pravda has posted audio/transctipts (in Ukrainian) of parts of Mykola Melnychenko's story on how at first he was on Yevhen Marchuk's payroll (as early as spring 1999), and how he began working for Oleksandr Moroz after the 1999 election (and well before Georgy Gongadze's disappearance).

Ever since the tape scandal broke out, Marchuk has been denying ever meeting Melnychenko, and Moroz has been claiming he had no knowledge of the tapes' existence prior to Gongadze's disappearance.

Don't ask me how the revelation's gonna affect Ukraine's political scene - I've no idea and don't care enough to try to make any guesses: after seeing Brent Stirton's photos today I'm even more disgusted with our pointless politics. But I'd love to see it all spelled out for me by someone else, still.

P.S. Oh, it's pretty much spelled out at Abdymok, here:

this means, of course, that volodymyr savchenko and mmm were first working for marchuk, then for moroz. it means that moroz is a liar. it means that melnychenko and the savchenko’s should be arrested, at least for their own protection. it also means yushchenko is a shmuck, obviously now in league with the u.s. administration, who during 2002 and 2003 used kolchuga during their pr campaign to forge the so-called “coalition of the willing” to invade iraq.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Brent Stirton's horribly heartbreaking photography: UKRAINE... SEX, DRUGS, POVERTY & HIV (via stasinka).

I wouldn't want to look at this more than once, and I'd advise those of you who are overly sensitive not to look at it at all.

The less emotional part of me thinks the photos are incredible and the photographer is a hero. Reality sucks big time, though.



Kill your inner Lukashenko!
Collective suicide of Lukashenkos
19.03.2006 20:00 Minsk
Oktyabrskaya Ploshchad

Full-size posters are here (in Russian).

"Yarmoshino, pidrahui-ka!"

Less than a week before the election in Belarus, please meet their "Kivalov/Kidalov pidrahui" persona - Lidiya Yarmoshina, head of the Central Election Committee (via czalex, in Russian).



If you're in Belarus, you can buy this t-shirt here (in Belarusian).

And if it's too cold to wear it outside (it is), you can buy an extra-large size and wear it over a jacket - "Like a hockey team!"

***

Also, if you're planning to be in Minsk on Sunday and have nowhere to stay, here's an LJ community that may help you find a place to crash: kvartira19 (in Russian and Belarusian).

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

But if you look at it as if it's theater, not circus, then a really sweet interlude are the Krishnaite guys passing by with their chanting and accordion music every now and then.

A dozen or so of them, they are wrapped in loose gowns, but wear regular jackets on top of that, as well as regular woolen hats. Parts of their legs are too visibly bare, which must feel very uncozy, but they don't show it and march on, happy and carefree, past the poor election men and women who have to stand in their tents or by the side of the road, waving their flags, breathing really bad Khreshchatyk air all day.

Everyone stares at the Krishnaites, even the cops.

And it's very strange to realize that there are still people in this country who are not running for parliament, who are not marching around in a group to draw attention to a politician or a party, but simply because they feel like it.