Saturday, April 28, 2007

Oh, what a month.

The Ukrainian rallies seem to be so far away now. I stopped following the events there even before Piskun became our prosecutor general yet again. The most important thing is that there's been no bloodshed.

And what a week.

First, Yeltsin. Now Rostropovich and Lavrov...

Lavrov the actor, not the foreign minister; the latter is quite alive, commenting on the situation in Tallinn left and right.

Yes, and now the situation in Tallinn: I've just posted a GV translation on that.

And the week's not over yet.

***

Chernobyl's 21st anniversary went pretty much unnoticed - by me, at least, because both Marta and I felt pretty ill on that day. Marta is teething; me, I don't know what it was.

***

An interesting point someone made on Radio Echo of Moscow today: in 1999, there were no Russian billionaires on the Forbes list; in 2007, there are 53.

Just another way of looking at the years of Yeltsin's rule vs. the years of Putin's rule.

Thursday, April 26, 2007



April 25, 2007
Near Novodevichye Cemetery, shortly after Yeltsin's funeral.

More photos - here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The whole Communist faction at the Russian Duma refused to stand up to honor Yeltsin today.

This says a lot more about him and his legacy than all the obits in the world would.

Marta had her first radio appearance yesterday - on BBC Radio Five Live, Pods and Blogs show!!!

I'm kidding, of course: it was me who was being phone-interviewed in our TV room, while Marta was desperately trying to get past the locked door, screaming her lungs out... And I'm exaggerating, too - you can barely hear her, just a couple of times, a sound that resembles a cat's meow (myaaooo).

:)

My segment begins somewhere at 2:45 minutes into the show and lasts till about 8:15.

The audio is here, show notes are here.

UPDATE: The audio content for this episode seems no longer available at the Pods and Blogs site, so here's a clip with my segment (thanks so much, Georgia, for capturing it!) -



First, Chris Vallance quotes from my last night's Global Voices translation, and then I say stuff about Yeltsin and about the Russian blogosphere.

I'm not saying anything special, but I'm still extremely happy. It was damn scary to be interviewed - I haven't spoken English in months, have only been reading and writing - but I think I sound okay. Yes, I do like the way I sound - it's a really nice surprise. :)

***

Thousands of people have come to the Christ the Savior Church in Moscow to say good-bye to Yeltsin - it takes at least an hour of standing in line to get inside and view the body.

Looks like Putin's got himself yet another peaceful rally - which he can't disperse, mainly because of all the Bushes-Clintons-John Majors coming over for the funeral.

The funeral is a good reason to do some repairs, too. Here's what LJ user grinka reports (RUS, my sleepy translation):

All the janitors that could be found in [Moscow's Central Administrative District] seemed to swarm on Prechistenka at 10 pm. They were washing the facades, painting lamp posts, washing shop windows. Evacuators were [towing cars away], road workers were shutting down [sewage holes] [...]. Someone standing in line [to view Yeltsin's body] said that by the Novodevichye [Cemetery] they had even promptly put fresh asphalt everywhere.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The timing of Yeltsin's death is outstanding: he died amid all the rallies, and the parading of riot police, and the endless talk of Putin's possible successor.

After reading Sergei Ivanov's interview in the FT just a few days ago, I caught myself thinking that I might even miss Putin a little bit if Ivanov became the next president. For a number of reasons.

And now everyone's talking about Yeltsin, and so many people speak of "the end of an epoch" - and so many admit that they miss the 1990s, Yeltsin's time.

***

A quick GV translation of the Russian bloggers' reactions is here.

***

A sort of a tribute to Yeltsin, from the piece I wrote for Euro-Correspondent.com in 2003 (no longer in their archives, though):

[...] Two years later, in October 2002, I was in a cab in Moscow, on my way to the Kremlin Cup finals. The driver was Georgian, and since he seemed interested, I decided to share some of the tournament's highlights with him. One was Russia's ex-president Boris Yeltsin, of course, who had spent over six hours cheering for a succession of this country's players on a previous day. No matter what one's political views might be, Yeltsin the Tennis Fan could be very amusing, even cute. The Georgian cab driver had a slightly different take on it. He shook his head in disbelief and fired out a curse in Russian so powerful and wordy that I think I blushed. Then he elaborated: "And look at our old fart, Shevardnadze! That's what he should be doing - retire and spend the rest of his life watching tennis! And instead, he is stealing and stealing and stealing, till nothing remains of the country!" [...]

Monday, April 23, 2007

Yeltsin has died, and somehow it's really hard to believe, and it's sad, too. Hard to believe they are mortals, you know. I felt the same kind of shock when Milosevic died, though there was no sadness at all then.

Yeltsin sat at a tennis game in Luzhniki just a few days ago, I've read. He was really good at it. (CORRECTION: Actually, he wasn't there, and it got people - Russian fans - worried. Sorry for confusion.)

Besides seeing him a few times at Kremlin Cup, I also bumped into him in spring 1987, when he was still a minor politician - but already considered progressive. He was visiting Ramenki then, a neighborhood in the south-west of Moscow - a really tall guy, sticking out of the crowd that gathered around him. Twenty years ago. We really liked him then.

RIP.

It is getting more and more surreal here.

On Sunday, a bunch of Russian human rights people decided to have a walking tour of last weekend's "battlefields" - the sites where OMON attacked, beat up and detained participants of the April 14 Dissenters' March, random passerby and journalists.

OMON fighters were awaiting them: seven people got detained right away, before they had time to gather in a group, and then the police followed the rest around - fewer than 20 people total, about half of them journalists, according to Marina Litvinovich (RUS), who was there with her son (a 5-year-old, I guess).

Here's a quote:

We walked, smiling, talking to journalists, and a walkie-talkie in the hands of an OMON guy nearby was saying: "They are just walking. What shall we do with them?"

OMON was definitely confused.


Photos from this walk are here.

And another quote from Litvinovich:

It may seem funny, but it's absolutely not funny. It's paranoia and fear. The regime is completely inadequate if it fears people who are just strolling peacefully.

Anyway, let's walk around our city! We are the free people and we aren't scared.


***

Litvinovich wrote that the majority of OMON guys had been deployed to Trubnaya (Pipe) Square - and, believe it or not, soon after they were gone, some 200 square meters of the pavement sank in somewhere nearby. (Most likely, it happened because of subway construction there, but still.)

Here're a few comments, again from Litvinovich's LJ (RUS):

el_cambio: The earth can't hold them anymore.

[...]

rgkot: What would happen if OMON guys jumped all at once?

abstract2001 [Litvinovich]: The Earth would come off its orbit and the global freezing would begin.

ilarion: Here you go: the gravitational weapon :)


***

Later that day, around 9:30 pm, some 30 activists of Rossiya Molodaya (The Young Russia, an anti-opposition movement) gathered by the Ukrainian embassy to protest Victor Yushchenko's pro-West policies: according to Gazeta.ru (RUS), they drove out a cart with "the U.S. president" sitting in it and "Yushchenko" acting as a horse; they also lit up firecrackers and dropped anti-Yushchenko leaflets over the embassy's fence. Gazeta.ru reports that

As a result of the rally, one activist, one journalist and a passerby were detained.


***

And here's what Sergei Ivanov, the man who may or may not become Russia's next president, thinks of all these marches and Russia's "civil society" in general:

[...] Russia is a huge country and mentally, unfortunately, the majority of the population, as before, relies on the tsar. Our civil society is still weak. It can’t be strong because only 15 years have passed since it began to be created.

[...] the majority of the people are apolitical, and I don’t see anything terrible about this.

[...] Monopolism of state power is harmful and we don’t even need to discuss this. But in conditions of weak political culture, when demonstrations easily turn into fights, when they close down roads, this just arouses aversion among the apolitical population, for whom it’s not important what slogans people are going around with, it’s important for them to be able drive along the road, and the rest they couldn’t care less about. There is a thin line between political freedoms and extremism.

[...]

FT: What do you think about the marches that are due to happen this weekend?

MR IVANOV: I don’t even know about them, I don’t really follow them. I know they happen from time to time, where about 100 people take part in the march and 2,000 police guard them. I think too much attention is paid. The only aim of the organisers of the marches is to attract the attention of the media. Why do municipal authorities ban marches, but allow meetings? Say whatever you want. We have freedom of speech. This is a free country. Read our newspapers. They write such things, sometimes you could say it’s total garbage. But print what you want, say what you want. But as for the marches, which you asked about. Here you are, here’s a place. Stand there. For a week if you want. Shout there, like in Hyde Park - Speakers Corner. Go ahead. But if you insist that you want to close down all the traffic in the centre of Moscow, if the interests of 10m people don’t concern you at all, if you couldn’t care less about them…any authority would say no because the majority of people are against this. And this really is the case, and there is no politics in this. If you want to demonstrate your opinion of the authorities, to criticise them and complain, stand here and shout. But don’t block the traffic. This is the principal contradiction.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I've read the interview with Sergei Ivanov in Financial Times and wanted to write down a few things, but I'm really tired right now, so I'll do it later, and for now, here's a picture from Kyiv - a crazy license plate on a Lexus parked near Mandarin/Arena City (taken with my cell phone)...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Someone's left this comment today/yesterday - thank you, dear Anonymous:

Ok. Sorry I am being out of every topic but somoone had to say it on this blog. It's been 2 days since we know: ... UKRAINE and POLAND will host EURO 2012!!! the 3rd largest sport event in the world. (..) I'm very, very happy.


I should've mentioned how happy and excited we are - but then there are so many things I fail to mention here...

And so much stuff going on in Kyiv that I'm missing, too...

But yes, Euro 2012 is such a great news - but there were no celebrations in Kyiv, nothing like what I saw on TV from Warsaw, right? We're too preoccupied with politics right now...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Yulia Tymoshenko's piece in Foreign Affairs: I've read it but don't really know what to make of it.

It's ghost-written, right?

Because, somehow, it reads like that huge text about Russia in LRB, and like a thousand other pieces of that kind.

And it is about Russia, not Ukraine. Which I, of course, find a bit annoying. Yulia Tymoshenko advising the West on what to do about Russia - instead of speaking out as an "expert" on Ukraine - an expert that she, hopefully, is.

***

An absolute trifle: "[...] the collapse of the Soviet Union on Christmas Day 1991 [...]" - could it really be Tymoshenko who wrote this?

They celebrate Christmas about two weeks later here - Orthodox Christmas - and, moreover, very few people celebrated it back in 1991.

Sounds too foreign to me.

***

But overall, it's a very smoothly-written piece, and as tactful towards Russia as the context allows.

"Russia is not a police state," according to Tymoshenko. And it "is usually judged on the basis of speculation about its intentions rather than on the basis of its actions." And its "leaders deserve understanding for their anguished struggle to overcome generations of Soviet misrule."

***

Oh, and this reminded me of the conspiracy theory thingy that I quoted from a week or so ago:

Indeed, Russia may actually be putting itself out of the gas business, because high engineering costs for new projects in Russia are signaling to the market that Russia and Gazprom lack the capacity to develop these fields. Western companies could come in and do the job, but given the Kremlin's recent usurpation of Shell's investments on Sakhalin Island, these companies would be remiss in their fiduciary duties if they undertook such investments.


How strange that I read this on the day Shell had finalized its deal with Gazprom - and was forced to sound happy about it:

Shell’s Executive Director, Exploration and Production, Malcolm Brinded said: “Gazprom’s entry into the Sakhalin Project is warmly welcomed. Combined with the government acceptance of the Environmental Action Plan, this is another important step for Sakhalin II. The AMI should create additional growth opportunities for the partners in the future.”


***

Tymoshenko also mentions Microsoft at one point: they should bring Gazprom "into line" - the way they did with Microsoft.

And in the adapted version of this piece, published in the International Herald Tribune, she's so hip, she even writes about iPod:

One must ask how it is that Apple's iPod and iTunes are challenged by EU regulators yet Gazprom is not?


***

One last thing - a terrible sentence, whoever wrote it:

And dangerous new forms of tuberculosis - as well as of Islamist extremism among the 17 percent of the Russian population that is Muslim - are being incubated through neglect.

Another little GV translation, this time on the March in St. Pete, among other things.

I'm getting really sick of this subject...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Kasparov's aide and PravdaBeslana.ru founder Marina Litvinovich has posted recordings of the walkie-talkie conversations between OMON fighters - on April 14 in Moscow and on April 15 in St. Pete.

On Radio Echo of Moscow, they've been playing one of these clips all day long today, the edited copy, with beeps instead of the curses.

There's also this thread on RadioScanner.ru forum, where the folks were listening in on the police during the rally in Moscow:

Ivanov, April 14, 2007, 13:02:27 -

A quote: "There's no one on Rozhdestvenskiy Boulevard! Not a single person, only OMON. Who are we supposed to detain, damn it?!"

Ivanov, April 14, 2007, 13:03:21 -

And in reply - "Detain everyone - with or without the attributes - detain them all!"

They'll have to detain the OMON guys :)))


(All links are in Russian, of course.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Another Global Voices translation on April 14:

Russia: Dissenters' March in Moscow (2)

On the one hand, president Vladimir Putin's spokesman admitted Tuesday that there had been instances of "overreaction" by riot police during the opposition's weekend rallies.

But on the other hand, also on Tuesday, opposition leader and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov was summoned for questioning to the Federal Security Service (FSB), on suspicion that he had been propagating extremism.

There is a lot of media coverage of these two and other post-rally developments (here's what comes up when you google "kasparov kasyanov limonov" - this AP piece, for example) - but below is a bit more of what Russian bloggers have written about the Dissenters' March in Moscow itself, as well as links to their photos.

(Warning: as in the previous installment, some links here lead to blogs with bandwidth-intensive content.)

- LJ user drugoi (photos and video);

- LJ user jetturtle (photos);

- LJ user zhenshen (photos);

- LJ user sholademi (photos featuring riot police in the context of the city and its various ads and signs):

On April 14, OMON fighters in Moscow took part in the casting for commercials of world-famous brands.


- LJ user khit (text):

April 12, 2007 -

I'm a dissenter, too [I disagree, too], but I'm not going to the March. Because what I disagree with isn't what the Communists, nationalists, and Limonov people [limonovtsy, members of Eduard Limonov's National Bolshevik Party] disagree with. And don't try to explain to me that Communists and limonovtsy are absolutely not what they used to be, and that the nationalists who are going to be there are all good - derivative from the word "nationa" and not "ethnicity." This [mixed up mass] smells of unscrupulousness. Not political unscrupulousness (you can't surprise anyone with that now), but human unscrupulousness. Disgusting.


April 15, 2007 -

Yes! Yes! Yes! I went there, even though only a day before, I was explaining in detail why I wouldn't go. But I wasn't lying. [...] I don't regret having gone there. It was something to be seen with my own eyes. In order to once again realize that this regime is mean. And also to understand that, alas, we are not ready for resistance. Alas!


- LJ user orthannaer (photo, text - here, here, here, and here):

[...] An OMON sergeant. A normal guy. Some female journalist was trying to get him talk on the subject of whether he "enjoyed defending the regime" - so I also spent some time talking to him. I'll skip the conversation's beginning, here's from the middle:

He asks me: "Have you come here to cause something bad to happen?"

- No, I wouldn't want anything bad to happen. But if the fighting occured here, it would be my duty to tell how it all went, who started it first.
- Ah, come on, as always, you'll write that it was OMON that beat the crap out of everyone.
- If you start it, I'll write this. But if the NBP people set upon you, I'll write that they are the idiots.
- Oh yeah?

Then [an officer of superior rank] approached and we pretended that we were just standing next to each other. Then the guy said that they couldn't be photographed, and couldn't talk to journalists, and couldn't do anything at all - because they wouldn't get their bonus money if they did. I [ignored] this ban on photographs and took a picture, shooting upward, from the hip, and the guy didn't see it.

Anyway, what am I trying to say? If you approach them with hatred, you'll get hatred in return. Folks come out of the subway and look at the cops as they would look at animals, or mud beneath their feet (and I've seen many people like this today), and then they are for some reason surprised that they're being grabbed by their hands and taken to jail [obezyannik, "monkey cage"]. Cops are people, too. And they differ from one another. Just like anywhere else, some are bastards, and some are normal guys. [...]


- LJ user bee-n-noa (photos, text):

[...] When we started photographing the police, an OMON fighter came up to us and asked if we had any posters with us. When we asked him what he'd do to us if we did have posters, he said mysteriously: "Well, it depends on what the posters say." And after another question - "And what if it said, 'Putin, give us back the election'?" - he lost patience and said that he wasn't allowed to talk with us. [...]


- LJ user krocodl (text):

[...]

* There are many young people in the audience. I spoke with a friend a while ago, and he complained that he didn't like today's kids too much, because they seemed somewhat zombified to him. But there [at the March], there were many good faces, with thoughts and feelings in their eyes. This, of course, is a plus, but the minus is that OMON is aiming exactly at these very people. I heard it myself - when the Marsians [OMON fighters] were jumping out of the bus, their commander was yelling, "Grab the young ones first." With such an approach, they'll become even more interesting and more adult in a while, of course, but I'm afraid it'll get pretty hard to explain to them about law and non-violent resistance. [...]

* The second-largest group is, of course, people aged 50 and more. Something worth noting is that there are a lot more "middle-class" representatives now [...]. Pensioners and the very elderly people are the second most intense group, too, whose drive can only be compared to that of the National Bolshevik Party guys. An idiotic country, where only the youngest and the oldest can afford being active - because both don't really have anything to lose. [...]

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Here's my Global Voices translation about April 14 - I hope to do a few more this week.

Russia: Dissenters' March in Moscow (1)

The volume of blog coverage of the weekend's rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg is truly overwhelming - as overwhelming, perhaps, as the number of riot police (OMON) deployed from all over Russia to disperse the opposition's Dissenters' March. But nowhere near as shocking.

Below is the first installment of links, accompanied with snippets of text translated from Russian. (Please note that many entries - arranged in no particular order - link to bandwidth-intensive content.)

- LJ user mnog (photos):

Don't feel like writing.

Photos (more than 50 (about 6 MB) )


- LJ user insie (other bloggers' photos, text):

[...] In the backyards near Tverskaya, I was surprised to discover little streams of people, who chose this path as the best, just like I did. In the backyards closer to Pushkinskaya, I saw trucks with OMON, police officers giving threatening orders via walkie-talkies, fire trucks and an ambulance. People walking nearby were on their cell phones, saying something like this: "See you later, unless I get detained." Made me feel uncomfortable. [...]


- LJ user serni (photos, video, text):

Disclaimer: I was present at the Dissenters' March out of curiousity only.

[...] When people moved forward, trying to break through, yelling, "There are more of us," the regime's forces produced sticks right away and started beating everyone who was in their way. It was the first time that I saw the enraged OMON fighters, walking towards me with sticks in front of them, beating everyone left and right. By miracle, I avoided the blows. It felt like a parachute dive. [...]


- LJ user dolboeb (photos, text):

Some OMON fighters, in the Ninja Turtles' outfits, looked appropriately intimidating and photogenic, but the pointlessness of their being there, their walking back and forth, seemed to tire both them and the audience. [...] As background for portrait shooting, the police looked great, I think.


- LJ user plushev (photos, text):

[...] We only got there at the very end of the rally, when they were no longer detaining or beating anyone - all were polite and respectful. The main and, basically, the only impression that I had the time to get was that they send A LOT OF young [police] women to work at rallies. Students of the police school, that is. Many were very beautiful, even in their ugly uniforms. Didn't manage to get a close shot of anyone - [my camera is too slow], and the girls were shy, they were turning away and asking not to photograph them.


- LJ user m_gaidar (text):

When they were taking me away, I called 02 [an equivalent of 911] and told them that I and a group of 20 people have been unlawfully kidnapped by people in uniform. The girl [operator] got very frightened and asked: "Where are you?" In a bus near Pushkinskaya, I replied, and the girl just hung up on me. I called again and asked her to introduce herself and register my call, because people in camouflage were taking us all in an unknown direction. She asked again where we were detained. I said, on Pushkinskaya, and she sign with evident relief and said: "Well... you know... here... We are just having a special operation there! Nothing to be scared of." A special operation against whom - against me?!!!!!! And what do you mean it's nothing to be scared of - for whom nothing scary? For you or for whom?!!! The girl was definitely feeling uncomfortable... said, please call the boss [starshiy]. "What boss?" I asked. "The one in camouflage," she replied. Okay, I see, you are all together in it, I said and hung up on her myself this time.

Anyway, I've now got a phone call from the prosecutor's office and they invited me to come tomorrow at noon to 19 Petrovka, to Boluchevskiy Sergei Anatolyevich and answer questions about my phone call. I said I'd come with journalists and a lawyer. They replied: "Yes, sure! Come with whoever you want..." Anyway, if anyone want to come along - write me. [...]


[A RIA-Novosti photo of m_gaidar's detention is here.]

- LJ user okalman (text):

I'm going to the March tomorrow... For many reasons. I disagree with the Other Russia, too, among other things, but I'm still going. [...] I don't like Kasyanov, nor do I like Kasparov, and even less so do I like Limonov. But if in the 1990s everyone wisely concluded that Yeltsin was a [Communist] party official and why would I go to the White House "for Yeltsin"? - then we'd still be living under Communists. [...]

Monday, April 16, 2007

I've finished posting April 14 photos.



It's depressing to be looking at so many cops (for the second day in a row), while also watching Kill Bill on Channel 1.

***

Below are some of my favorites:



George Michael is coming to Moscow.

***


Kto kuda, a my zhenitsa.

Someone's wedding, interrupted by a traffic jam near Pushkinskaya. Terrible timing.

I also saw a young woman in a maroon Mercedes with the wheel on the right side - she was trying to drive out to Tverskaya from one of the little streets, but the cop told her she had to back up and take a detour, and she replied, in a slightly hysterical but totally serious way, "But I don't know how to drive backwards!!!" - and the cop looked absolutely bewildered, and even asked her, earnestly, "But what can I do about it?"

***


"A million dollars into one pair of hands."

That's a casino sign, on Pushkinskaya.

***


"V mire zhivotnyh" - "In the Animal World"

An ad for a popular TV nature show with Nikolai Drozdov. (I mentioned him a while ago, in this post.)

***



This is Aleksandr Potkin, aka Aleksandr Belov, leader of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration.

I wrote a little about the movement here; and about Potkin-Belov and the Russian March here.

(Also, remember I was trying to locate the link to a Russian blogger's post about that wonderful old lady who went to every rally there was? - I've found it, thanks to Potkin-Belov!)

At the rally, he told the crowd about his car: an old Mercedes with the driver's door broken - so he has to get in through the passenger's door.

He also said he was sure the police would join him and his supporters when they march onto Kremlin - but not this time, later. Judging by his "bodyguards," it must've been a joke - though it's interesting that they arrested Kasparov for much less, yet didn't touch this idiot.

He was also screaming something like "Churki, out!" - churki is one of those offensive terms for the non-Slavic population.

He and Rogozin also believe that 70 percent of Russia's voters would vote for their new party ("Great Russia" or something) in the upcoming election. If they are one of Putin's "projects," the goal must be to get as many people as possible thinking, "If this is what the alternative to Putin looks and sounds like, well, maybe it's better to have Putin stay where he is."

Or maybe not, because why would Garry Kasparov want to invite Limonov and Anpilov to his bloc? And why should everyone anti-Putin worry about the fate of the leader of something called the Vanguard of the Red Youth? (Another ally of Kasparov, he was detained yesterday, too.)

Zyuganov's Communists have been doing pretty well in the regional elections lately - and perhaps freaks are what people here really want, and all the riot police gathered in Moscow for no reason are not making Putin himself look too adequate, so here you go.

Seriously, though, Russian politics is incomprehensible and too crazy, even crazier than what we have in Ukraine.

Sunday, April 15, 2007



I've started posting yesterday's pictures - 68 of them, so far.

I'll finish it up later today.

***

The amount of stuff on LiveJournal is overwhelming; I hope to do a little roundup tonight.

Here's a photo from yesterday, taken at Turgenevskaya, by the metro:



The rest will come later, they are nowhere near as nice as this one.

It was hard to take pictures - because the police were everywhere and at times it felt like photographing random people walking down the street, nothing special, a very routine part of the landscape.

I wasn't there when they were beating people - I think I was stuck in traffic half a block away from Novopushkinskiy Square at the time. Then I had to walk around quite a bit, because they weren't letting anyone approach either Novopushkinskiy (where the Young Guard stood) or Pushkinskaya (where the opposition got their asses kicked). So, basically, I didn't see any violence, nor did I see any opposition flags.

Didn't see the opposition marching to Turgenevskaya, either. I took a cab there myself, somewhat later, and you know, I totally didn't get it where Luzhkov had been imagining a rather huge crowd to squeeze itself in there - together with all those cops and army boys, or even without them. I got there at the very end, and the most memorable thing were all the cop girls, the cadets, I guess: many were wearing high heels, looking really absurd - don't they have dress code, or were those girls violating it?

From Turgenevskaya, I walked all the way to Bolotnaya (Swamp) Square, where the Rogozin and Potkin-Belov crowd had gathered. I was impressed with myself for being able to walk such a distance without feeling tired - and I wasn't really surprised to find that Moscow away from Pushkinskaya and Turgenevskaya showed no signs of anything extraordinary happening nearby. Reminded me of Kyiv, where one end of Khreshchatyk may be absolutely calm, and the other may have a mini-revolution going on.

Potkin-Belov is such a clown - but, more about it later: Marta isn't letting me type now.

Oh, and the reason I didn't write anything yesterday is because I fell asleep the same time Marta did, around 10:30 pm. Didn't happen to me in a while.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Mikhail Leontiev got totally hysterical a few minutes ago during an Osoboe Mneniye show with Matvei Ganapolskiy on Radio Echo of Moscow.

He was spitting out bad words - not mat, but still pretty bad for a live radio and TV show.

They were talking about tomorrow's Dissenters' March and what Gleb Pavlovsky said about a possible fight or two that the march might result in (but not bloodshed).

Kasparov, according to Leontiev, is an empty spot. But dangerous.

Leontiev, according to me, is a sick man.

Right now, he keeps saying mne nasrat' over and over - he doesn't give a fuck about someone's politics.

Pizdets kakoy-to.

I'm trying to sort my last week's Kyiv photos (going very slowly), and I've just run into this one - from the Yanukovych rally on March 31 at European Square:

On Radio Ekho Moskvy tonight, Anatoliy Lysenko, the father of modern Russian TV, president of the International Academy of TV and radio, was asked a question about the situation in Ukraine (not just because it's relevant but also because he was born somewhere near Vinnytsya). His voice seemed to grow sadder - he's one of those people who seriously believe in the possibility of Ukraine splitting into two.

Yanukovych, he said, was addressing the crowd in Russian, and Yushchenko - in Ukrainian.

This seemed to be the main basis for Lysenko's fear (he also worried we might have a re-run of 1993 in Moscow).

The way they are completely missing the point about the "language issue" is amazing: it's as if one half of the country speaks Hebrew and the other Chinese.

***

Surprisingly, Victor Chernomyrdin, the Russian ambassador in Ukraine, sounds a lot more reasonable (Gazeta.ru, RUS): he doesn't think it's gonna get as violent here as it did in Yugoslavia - and he insists that Russia doesn't favor Yanukovych any more than anyone else.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

On Saturday, there'll be at least four rallies here in Moscow: The Other Russia's Dissenters' March either at Pushkinskaya or Turgenevskaya, or both (or neither); an SPS rally at Slavyanskaya Square; Rogozin's nationalist rally at Bolotnaya Square; the United Russia/the Young Guard's rally at Pushkinskaya AND Vorobyovy Gory.

And here's a relevant item from Gazeta.ru (RUS):

"All journalists planning to cover street rallies this coming weekend can visit us at the Center for Extreme Journalism and receive special jackets. It'll say MEDIA on them and there'll also be listed those articles of the legislation, which protect journalists' professional rights and for violation of which those guilty are to bear responsibility," said on Thursday Igor Yakovenko, secretary general of the Russian Journalists' Union.

He noted that "these jackets are in fact meant for journalists working in "hot zones," but, taking into account the tensions surrounding the upcoming events, the Russian Journalists' Union is ready to lend them to reporters."

Yakovenko has appealed to law enforcement officials, calling them "to follow the law and let journalists do their job during the upcoming rallies." "You should understand that journalists are not participants - they are just there doing their job, just as the police do their job. And you should approach it from the legal, not political perspective."


This is so fucked up. And after Kyiv and our "on the verge of civil war" state, this seems especially crazy.

What about, say, a group of Japanese tourists who might happen at the site of one of those rallies and, of course, start taking pictures? Do they need flak jackets, too?

Or, what about someone with the soul of a Japanese tourist - someone like myself?

:)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

P.S. to the previous post: by "serious" I now mean stories in English and longer than your average Reuters/AP story. Conspiracy theories do qualify because they usually take up much space.

***

And here's one of Yushchenko's bullshit promises: the building on Hrushevskogo that he kept promising to tear down but never did - it looks almost ready for people to move in now.



I remember being pissed when Yushchenko said the building would go not because those who decided to build it at that spot violated certain laws - but because Kyivites found it annoying.

My head is still not ready for all the "serious" articles on Ukraine (I've very little time, too). So far, I've only been able to read this piece by LaRouche Movement's Executive Intelligence Review (found via Kiev Ukraine New Blog).

I've heard they are known for their love of conspiracy theories - so here goes:

Evidence is mounting that Vice President Dick Cheney may be personally handling a "Ukraine portfolio," involving the destabilization of Prime Minister Victor Yanukovych's government, or even splitting the country in two [...].


They sure don't like "Cheney-friend Tymoshenko":

Back in Kiev, Tymoshenko crowed that "Cheney and Rice" support new elections.


And in the end, it's all about oil and gas, of course:

U.S. connections to the destabilization were the subject of sensational claims, such as the assertion by Socialist Party Rada member Vasili Volga, that Tymoshenko had received $1 billion from the Shell Oil Company during her U.S. trip, "to organize a coup in Ukraine."


I've looked it up, and, according to Kommersant, Shell has been in Ukraine since early June 2006 - after eight years of "negotiations":

The agreement with Shell will enable Ukraine to reduce dependency on the gas and oil of Russia and to break Gazprom’s monopoly on gas transit via its pipelines, spokesmen of press service of Ukrainian government said.


Shell is in Ukraine to conduct "exploration of the fields of Dnepr and Donetsk basin," Kommersant says - and so I wonder: if this is their (and Yulia's) intention to "even [split] the country in two," how are they gonna go about it, geographically? They are in the "hostile East" already, no problem - and why would they want to kick the chair from under their own butts?

***

All in all, it's always amazing to watch how something comparatively tiny and obscure as Ukraine suddenly turns into a bat that folks across the ocean use to smash the heads of their political opponents with - how suddenly it's no longer about us, but about Cheney and other irrelevant entities God knows where, how "local" - email-less coal miners, napping babushkas and the dancing youth - suddenly becomes "foreign"...

It's so strange being far from Kyiv: so easy to miss something important.

So I keep reminding myself of the times last week when Gazeta.ru was reporting huge crowds at Maidan - but there were only a few dozen people left there.

No civil war in sight, really, no matter what they say. Inshaallah.

Today (yesterday), they were expecting up to 750,000 protesters (RUS) - did it really happen? And if it did, where are all these people now?

Here's what Maidan looks like just half an hour past midnight, Kyiv time (screenshot of Channel 1+1's webcam view):



All this reporting in the future tense is really annoying.

This guy, the deputy minister of internal affairs, Victor Suslov, for example: they've been quoting him all day long today (yesterday), all the paranoia (UKR) about extremists and possible confrontations. He probably does have some info that forces him to say things he does, but when you're listening from, say, Moscow, it's as if something terrible is already taking place in Kyiv, as if Kyiv is an extremely dangerous location right now - which is crap, of course.

Reporting the coalition's expectations - the number of protesters tomorrow and the day after, civil war, etc. - is, in general, so like reporting Yushchenko's (or any other politician's) promises. I'm all for freedom of speech, but sometimes I think journalists should be banned from writing about stuff that is yet to happen (or not).

And I, of course, have no way of knowing whether there'll be confrontations in the near future or not, whether Maidan will finally stay full and alive 24 hours a day beginning tomorrow (today), despite rain and cold - so I guess I should shut up as well, but the way things are going, I really feel it's realistic to believe everything will end peacefully, sooner or later. One of the signs was Yanukovych flying off to Donetsk to see a football game instead of addressing his supporters - it's unforgettable.

Got mentioned in the Guardian Unlimited News Blog, at the very end of a roundup by Peter Walker:

One thing that can't be avoided is that the current situation is just that bit less exciting than those heady days of November 2004, with far smaller protests.

The Neeka's Backlog blog is continuing the work it did on the Orange Revolution, but remains mindful of the differences.

One entry shows a picture of restaurant tables out on the streets all of 100 metres from "where the biggest political crisis in the former Soviet Union is currently taking place", adding:

"And the only reason the tables are empty is because it's kind of cold outside - not because it's dangerous or something."

Monday, April 09, 2007

We're back in Moscow.

I hope it stays quiet in Kyiv, not just because quiet is kind of nice during revolutions, but also because, you know, I'm in Moscow.

***

I have a pretty huge backlog of photos, and I'll try to post them in the next few days.

***

I should've mentioned this on Saturday, but kept getting distracted:

A bunch of my recent blog entries and photos have been arranged in an awesome-looking story at ZUENDER, a webzine run by Germany's biggest weekly newspaper Die Zeit - Die Koalition der Gelangweilten.

I'm extremely proud and happy (and a little upset - because my German is too poor to even read what I myself have written).

Sunday, April 08, 2007

I've just noticed this correction on a New York Times piece by Andrew E. Kramer:

Correction: April 4, 2007

An article yesterday about the deepening crisis in Ukraine misidentified the political leader affiliated with the Our Ukraine Party. He is President Viktor A. Yushchenko, not Prime Minister Viktor F. Yanukovich.


It's becoming a trend to confuse one for the other.

Yushchenko was supposed to distribute Holy Fire near St. Sophia's tonight, but the ceremony got postponed - allegedly because the delegation delivering the Fire from Jerusalem to Ukraine (headed by Yushchenko's brother, as far as I remember) was running late (RUS).

If it's not Yushchenko himself who's being late, then it's his brother.

***

Yanukovych was supposed to speak at Maidan in the early afternoon, but changed his mind abruptly, somewhere around European Square, and left for what had at first been reported as some very important, very urgent negotiations that could solve the conflict, etc. - but in the end it turned out to be a mere football game (RUS) in Donetsk, Shakhtar vs Vorskla (Poltava), 2:1.

***

Speaking of Poltava, Mishah and I were passing that restaurant on Khreshchatyk that used to be Pora's headquarters (or press center?) during the Orange Revolution - Chateau - and he stopped to take a picture of the neat tables that they have outside - because, you know, this is, like, a hundred meters away from Maidan, where the biggest political crisis in the former Soviet Union is currently taking place...



And the only reason the tables are empty is because it's kind of cold outside - not because it's dangerous or something.

Yes, but speaking of Poltava, we passed an ordinary Ukrainian family - mama, papa and their son, 8 years old or so - near this restaurant, and we overheard a tiny bit of their conversation: the boy, obviously, wanted to go inside for, perhaps, ice cream - and his mother explained the reason they couldn't go in - very loudly, in a beautiful Ukrainian:

"Because in Poltava life is a lot cheaper!"

***

Speaking of Pora (the party), it looks like they've split into two (once again, sort of) - and it looks like a bunch of Kaskiv's former allies are accusing him of sending some thugs over to Pora's office. Pictures of the damage are at Obozrevatel (UKR).

***

Another very telling quote that we eavesdropped on as we walked by the Pochtampt building at Maidan, of the "East and West together" variety: a bunch of guys - of what seemed like every age and every political view possible - stood there in a circle, discussing politics.

"But in principle, we are all alike," one of the men said in Ukrainian.

(Here's a line for Bono: "We're not one, but we're all the same...")

Saturday, April 07, 2007

LJ user potekhin on Yanukovych supporters currently in Kyiv (UKR):

On the way from Maidan yesterday, with friends, [saw] several guys on Kostelna:

"I've been everywhere here already - to the McDonald's and two cafes. Man, the prices that they've got here. If it hadn't been for their [50 hryvnias] (points in the direction of European Square), I would've died already."

Via Wu Wei, nice Crimea photos by a Lithuanian photographer Tomas Cernisevas.

My very favorite is this one: Princess.

Friday, April 06, 2007



This is from April 4, early afternoon, when the majority of them moved off to Bankova: Coalition of the Bored.

A guy came up to me at some point, asked what paper I worked for, I said I was shooting it all for myself, history and all that, he said taking pictures of nature was better, I said it was up to me to decide, and he agreed. Basically, he could've been hostile to me, but I disarmed him with ... not really a smile, but some semi-friendly, meaningless chat.





Around 7 pm yesterday, Maidan was practically empty. Not even the dancing young people were there. The weather was kind of chilly, maybe that's why.

Here's a video of "orange" women talking to some foreign reporters (not sure if it was ethical to just place myself next to them and basically steal their stuff with my tiny camera):



They came to have a look, but there's no Maidan, and there's no support for the coalition in Kyiv, because no Kyiv people have come to stand at Maidan, and if these guys had invested their souls into it, they would've been here now, but they aren't, and it's all been organized artificially only to fall apart...

Babushka with a little flag and an orange scarf around her neck seems to be the one who thought I was photographing her for Yanukovych people - but this time she didn't seem to mind.

***

Today, I just can't make myself go there again.

Ukrainska Pravda reports (UKR) that they're all watching Easter movies there now - all, including the Communists.

Korrespondent.net writes (RUS) that the Party of the Regions will hold no rallies "until Jesus rises" (until Monday, that is), but no one knows whether Communists and Socialists will abstain, too.

***

Yesterday, some crazy shit was happening at the Pechersk District Court - with the Party of the Regions politicians (not people) storming the building and, among other things, beating a young woman up. Then, one of those politicians was rude and loud - and lying - on 1+1, and the host got him to leave the studio, not politely, I've heard, but quite fairly.

At some level, it's all about money right now - finding it for the new election.

Someone anonymous who does this blog type of thing called Ukraine Today - A Political review left a comment on my Global Voices translation, which, among other things, had this claim:

The cost of the election is estimated to be around 150 Million dollars. Money that would be better spent on other issue.


I remembered a different figure mentioned by Davydovych back in March:

In early March, head of the Central Election Committee Yaroslav Davydovych said (RUS) an early election would cost approximately 400 million hryvnias - which is something around $80 million.


Here's the response from the Ukraine Today person(s):

when calculating the cost of elections you need to take into account the direct costs and indicate costs. The true cost of the election is expected to be well over the estimated 150 Million dollars when you take into account impacts on Ukraine’s economic development and cost of running a nation wide campaign.


I do agree that there are many better ways to spend this money.

I went out with a dear friend today, for example, who works at a budget-funded institution that's supposed to represent Ukraine in a completely non-political way. Or, in a predominantly non-political, yet very significant, way. But for all its conspicuousness, this institution has always been struggling to survive financially. And this struggle has always been reflected in my friend's salary: about $200 a month now, four times as much as he had been making some five years ago. My friend is totally brilliant in his field and works really hard - but imagine having to pay $50 out of $200 for utilities, plus there're also food and clothing to buy, public transportation costs, and yes, entertainment, because, you know, my friend isn't some old fart content with soap operas on his old TV. Everyone here, including my friend, has got other sources of income, of course, which sort of explains how people manage to get by, but his official salary is still the ridiculous $200 a month, paid to him by the state. And he's not happy about it, even though he loves his job.

I, of course, think that my friend and the institution he works for would have really benefited from those $80-$150 million that they are going to waste on their posters, rallies and other crap.

But what also bugs me is that all the Yanukovych schmucks are suddenly up in arms about this huge waste of money - as if they were not running this country when my friend was making $50 a month and as if they were not buying all these fancy cars like crazy in the past year or so (and driving them on sidewalks, but that's a different matter, I won't get into this now). As if they've really managed to lure those Rada defectors with their good and charitable deeds, and not with money and property offers - and then got their asses busted for nothing. Please.

I'm sort of undecided with this new election. I do buy the argument that if I voted for a bloc and then its members switched to the other side, they aren't being fair to the people who voted for them. It sort of doesn't concern me personally - because I voted for Pora and they didn't get in, and now Kaskiv is rumored to have been given $2 million or something to keep him quiet, but that's irrelevant. What I don't believe is that the election's gonna change anything. Even Moroz would manage to squeeze himself back in, as part of some new Party of the Regions/Socialists/Communists bloc.

And I really wish there was some way to make it all work decently regardless of the politicians' political affiliations - you are up there, you are responsible for cleaning up the big mess down here (like, raising my friend's salary) - and we are responsible for cleaning our own, comparatively small, mess (like, not driving on sidewalks and not peeing in the elevators). But - sigh - you probably need to be a German or something to make it work so smoothly...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

For the first couple of days, I liked the suspense that my walk from Besarabka to Maidan involved: will there be many people? what if there's lots of orange there now? Somehow, the Besarabka end of Khreshchatyk is like another world, no politics whatsoever, only cars, both on the road and on the sidewalk.

But by now, I'm bored with their Maidan. All the same faces, lots of garbage, and the politicians speaking from the stage are full of shit.

First, they say they are against one man grabbing all power in Ukraine, and this one man is, of course, Yushchenko. Then, they happily declare that they want Yanukovych to be both the president and the premier.

And even though the crowd is barely audible, the speakers go on and on about how it's the whole Ukraine represented there, and the whole Ukraine hearing their voices, including the president at the Secretariat (which, by the way, is located at such a place where not really a sound is heard from Maidan, even when Maidan was really loud).

I got so bored there today that it reminded me of the night right after the second round in 2004, the night before the real Maidan began: how I couldn't sleep because I was scared no one would show up the next morning, and how I had a nightmare about that when I did finally fall asleep, and how in the morning I heard people in the street talk about the very same fear.

I wonder if there's anyone at this Maidan who can't sleep at night, worrying that there won't be enough of them there the next day?



More coalition people dancing.

April 3, after 6 pm, after most of the babushkas have been taken away.

It would've been more natural to see them listening to Oleksandr Moroz day and night, or to classical music, taking into account what that scary woman said earlier that day about the opposition's lousy song-writing skills.

Seriously, though, it's really amazing how politics gets mixed with entertainment here - and how the latter often prevails. I've heard this observation before, and it seems to be true about every political force in this country.

Maybe this is what saves us from violence.

But after spending time at this kind of Maidan, where hardly anyone would care or be able to talk about "serious" politics coherently, I find it even harder than before to focus on "serious" commentary. Much of it just doesn't make sense to me - and bores me. Maybe when I go back to Moscow, I'll find it in me to digest some of the abstract stuff. Maybe not.



How do they lure kids like this to Maidan? And what do the old Communist farts think of it?

Dark and quiet at Maidan around 9 pm. Lots of tents, some flags, a few dozen people. It's more crowded at the nearby Globus shopping mall (where a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice costs nearly $5).

***

At 2 p.m., Maidan was full of people, though when I got there, many were already on the way to the Presidential Secretariat (or whatever it's called now), on Bankova.

A dozen or so bio-toilets, urine leaking out, and two old women standing nearby, discussing a miracle:

- These! - are - the bio-toilets! [Beeo-tooalety!]
- Aaaah!

***

Theirs is a Through-the-Looking-Glass Maidan.

They were watching us in 2004, and now we're watching them - and I dislike what I see perhaps as much as they disliked what they saw.



And I remember some people complaining in 2004 that the point of view of Yanukovych supporters was not properly represented - well, now they are in the spotlight and what they make of it is completely up to them.

***

From Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, by Lewis Carroll:

They were standing under a tree, each with an arm round the other's neck, and Alice knew which was which in a moment, because one of them had `DUM' embroidered on his collar, and the other `DEE.' `I suppose they've each got "TWEEDLE" round at the back of the collar,' she said to herself.

***

Whenever the horse stopped (which it did very often), he fell off in front; and whenever it went on again (which it generally did rather suddenly), he fell off behind. Otherwise he kept on pretty well, except that he had a habit of now and then falling off sideways; and as he generally did this on the side on which Alice was walking, she soon found that it was the best plan not to walk QUITE close to the horse.


***

After three days spent around the poor old women and unwashed young men, it was pretty shocking to see Kaskiv, Lavrynovych and Rudkovsky near the Presidential Secretariat: all three were so shiny, in nice suits - like aliens.









***

An old woman wearing an Our Ukraine flag as a headscarf asked me angrily who I was photographing for: "For Yanyki?"

I blame it on my blue sneakers, of course.



Wednesday, April 04, 2007

I've no time for anything, so here's my last night's translation for Global Voices - I guess I was writing it in my sleep, but it turned out nice.

I really, really hope to post pictures and write a few updates later today. Right now, I can hear some hysterical intonations coming from Maidan, and the webcam shows quite a crowd there...

Ah, 2007 is so different from 2004: I didn't have to figure out ways to have my parents take Marta for a walk then... Avoiding the traffic and the stinking masses at Maidan aren't the only factors I have to take into account now, unfortunately: there's also my father, and there's no way to cross Khreshchatyk with a stroller, no way my mama can do this, that is...

Anyway, here's the translation:

Ukraine: Betting on Yushchenko

On Saturday, tens of thousands of people attended two major rallies in Kyiv: supporters of prime minister Victor Yanukovych and his ruling coalition were brought to European Square to protest president Victor Yushchenko's plans to dissolve the parliament; supporters of Yushchenko and his current allies stood at Maidan Nezalezhnosti, voicing their approval of this tough measure.

On Sunday, all was perfectly quiet and uneventful in Kyiv.

Then on Monday, Yushchenko dissolved the parliament, accusing Yanukovych of usurping power. The ruling coalition reacted to the president's order by defying it; the parliament continued its work throughout Tuesday.

How the situation is going to develop and whether the early election, scheduled for May 27, would take place, is anyone's guess right now. But Ukrainians seem to be used to such unpredictability. After all, it wasn't clear until the very last moment whether the president and the prime minister would reach compromise, and hardly anyone seemed too surprised when they didn't - but even if they had, it wouldn't have been a complete shock to many.

LJ user chernikovsun (Ukrainian journalist Andrey Chernikov) has written this (RUS) about the risky business of betting on Ukraine's president:

A political totalizer

I've got some political forecasting skills. But at a bookmaker's office, I wouldn't bet on the parliament's dissolution or its non-dissolution. Because our president is an unpredictable person. I haven't been able to figure out what determines the decisions he makes. And I would've lost on any stake I'd made.


Funny, but some gambling did take place (RUS) - at the forum of Ukrainska Pravda, one of Ukraine's most popular news sites, founded by Georgiy Gongadze: Yushchenko's firmness allowed three forum dwellers to win 50 hryvnias ($10) and two more twice as much; one of the bettors who didn't believe the president would dissolve the parliament lost 200 hryvnias ($40).

Almost like betting but not quite is a survey question (UKR) posted at Ukrainska Pravda's forum; readers are asked whether they'd be prepared to support their president right up to the victory. Of the 154 voters, 132 said they would, 13 responded negatively, and nine said they didn't care:

VERBICKY: So we'll support him, but he'd let us down and recall his order on Easter's eve.

[...]

Kram: Yes, but even yesterday I didn't expect myself to feel this way!

[...]

Matroskin: No. In the two years of his presidency, one firm decision? [...]


LJ user unika_ is one of those who is skeptical about the idea to re-elect Ukrainian lawmakers. She notes that Yushchenko's order to dissolve the parliament was made public shortly after full moon appeared in the skies on April 2 - and full moon is known to only make it worse for the mentally ill, according to unika_. Seriously, though, she writes:

[...]

They can do re-elections ten times or more, but the result would still be 50/50. Both optimists and pessimists understand this. So what's the point in spending money, distracting people from the work in the fields, stopping the ministries' work?

[...]


And here is a view of someone who agrees with the president - LJ user skylump writes (RUS):

Hurrah. I'm glad. Yushchenko has made at least one dignified step. I continue to enjoy the story of the parliament's dissolution. Because the elites have to be taught democracy. The old European method, guillotine - or the old Ukrainian method, throwing hetmans [commanders] onto spike - do not fit the spirit of the time. Nowadays, the elites have to be reshuffled and led to bankruptcy during the multiple elections - to make them understand at least something.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Party of the Regions and Communists are dancing to some gypsy pop singer at Maidan:

The first video, of a scary woman, a Communist or from the Regions. She's saying that Ukraine's in mortal danger and that Tymoshenko is selling us to America, et cetera. Even if I had more time, I doubt I'd survive translating and explaining more from her speech. I think her face and her intonations are more than enough.



P.S. The sound is lagging behind, for some reason.

P.P.S. "Again, the neo-Orangists are raising their heads and want to drive Ukraine into slavery to their masters across the ocean. Tell me, where, in what other country, the president of Ukraine forces East and West, South and North to collide with their foreheads? Where is such a thing possible?!"

Right. In what other country does Yushchenko do all those outrageous things he's doing here?

I wanted to upload a few videos, but it's taking too long, so here're a couple pics...



"In memory of Yevhen Kushnaryov" t-shirt on this guy at Mariinsky Park...

Kharkiv tents are also dedicated to him:



Kushnaryov got shot to death by his buddy while hunting illegally in mid-January.

One more from the same Kushnaryov batch:


"Tymoshenko, Lutsenko, leave Ukraine alone!"

Just back from Maidan, the Communist crowd and their leaders' speeches is something, but there arent't that many of them. It's not just the economy and poverty that they're blaming Yushechenko and Tymoshenko for, it's also the opposition's inability to write a single good song, build a single good building, paint a single good painting, etc. What a circus.

A tiny opposition group - with one Our Ukraine flag and two flags that I can't identify right away - stands across Khreshchatyk from the main coalition crowd.

(More later, because I have to go downstairs and drag Marta's stroller up - the elevator's still not working... Sorry!)

Lots of Yanukovych and Communist people at Maidan now...

Ah, I can post again - couldn't just a few minutes ago, and so I left myself a comment to the previous post, saying that everything's quiet, both on our end of Khreshchatyk, and at Maidan. I'm watching Maidan through Channel 1+1's webcam - here - but I'll be going out in that direction soon. There are a few flags visible there, but I read at the Ukrainska Pravda Forum that people would be gathering there around 5 pm - it's not weekend, after all, most people are at work.

By 6:30 pm, all the old women were gone from the park and only the young guys remained, sweeping the garbage away and fixing the tents. I told my mama, and the news must've thrilled her, because she took Marta and papa for this really late stroll - to the park.

They were still there after 9 pm, after Yushchenko had announced his decision. A young man from the tents came up to them and said that it was probably better for them to go home now - because the president had just dissolved the parliament. Mama pretended to be surprised, even though she already knew about it from me. She asked the guy what would happen next, he said maybe they'd introduce curfew. She asked him whether bus #24 was still running, and he replied he had no idea - because he was from Donetsk. A very friendly young man, she told me, eager to help.

They were home around 10 pm - but Marta likes to throw things out of her stroller, and this time it was her new shoe that got lost along the way. Mama was very upset and insisted on going out again and looking for it, and if mama makes up her mind about something, there's no way to talk her out of it, so I didn't even try to stop her.

She returned when Marta was falling asleep, at 11:30 pm, with the shoe - which, I suspect, wasn't the main reason why she stayed out for so long.

I guess she waited for Maidan to begin right away - but it hasn't yet.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Whoops. Looks like Ukraine's without its parliament now.

I'm drowning in photos, so here's the first set: 70 photos of the people gathered at Mariinsky Park by Verkhovna Rada today.

Mariinsky Park looks like a HUGE gypsy camp. The coalition must've decided to go real cheap: many young people, but even more old women, really tired by now. From what I've heard, they are going to stay there for at least a few more days. Which really pisses me off, because this park is more or less the only place where we can walk with Marta, but with all those people, it's impossible.

Most of the pro-coalition/pro-Yanukovych/pro-Moroz/pro-Symonenko folks at European Square had badges of the "delegates" of something called the National Unity Forum.

***

I loved how Mishah called the opposition/pro-Yulia/pro-Yushchenko/pro-Lutsenko crowd "the pro-presidential opposition" - so absurd.

***

A friend of ours was very impressed with Lutsenko's Maidan speech (which I missed): she said he was like a Ukrainian Lenin, and that made us frown, so she explained he was the most inspired and inspiring of them all.

***

At European Square, I eavesdropped on some Kyiv guys discussing their allies from Donetsk: how totally uncool they looked.

***

They were dancing at both squares, and here are the videos - three from the coalition rally at European Square, and one from Maidan, all shot shortly before I went back home - shortly before the beginning of Yulia's speech:







Sunday, April 01, 2007

Some political stories I've been hearing recently made me realize that trying to understand what's really going on up there without any insider knowledge is like trying to understand what all the archangels are up to up there in the clouds.

Other stories - stories from the ground - sound like something from the 1990s: an acquaintance, whose son is in some way connected to Lutsenko, had her apartment searched recently, and she nearly had a heart attack because of that, and although I know little about her and nothing about her son, I suspect he's not a very important person - because she is ... well, it's crazy but I'm not gonna write what she is because I don't want to cause her any more problems... all I'm gonna say is she works hard and earns little. And another acquaintance told me during Maidan's second anniversary that Lutsenko's people had raided his relative's downtown business while Lutsenko was still the minister of the interior. Again, go figure.

Mishah's contribution from yesterday's Maidan:



:)))

More here.

Guys from Shakhtersk I wrote about last night - with their backs to the sun and facing it:



Have to post just one picture, to end the day on a good note.

Salo, 5 hryvnias ($1) instead of 20 ($4) for a kilo, according to my mama, at the farmers' market on Khmelnytskogo St. today/yesterday.

Peter Byrne of Abdymok.net did this really mean thing today/yesterday: he took a picture of me at Maidan and then, before I had time to, like, say hi to him or something, he rode off on his bike, and now the picture is posted on his blog.

I'm so fat.

Very demoralizing. Moreover, I've just eaten all that chocolate. Damn.

I guess I know now why some people hate to have their pictures taken by bastards like myself.

Needless to say, I'm not in the mood to post my own photos now - there are plenty of fat women on them, too, you know - but here're the links to the really cool ones that I've found at the Ukrainska Pravda forum:

- Party of the Regions guys at Mariinsky Park

- the European Square rally

- opposition politicians' mugs

- Maidan

Before I move on to the videos, I'd like to say that I'm so proud of us Ukrainians - so proud of how peaceful we are. What a day - and not a single casualty. Just tons of garbage, which is being cleaned right now, and lots of drunks, whose political preferences are impossible to tell unless they carry a little flag or something.

There are idiots everywhere, of course, so - on to the videos.

Here's the old anti-Semite I mentioned in the previous post - he's using a Ukrainian flag as a weapon against an elderly pro-Yanukovych woman:



And here's the same guy, saying bad things about Jews and hitting me with the flag - though you can't really see it in this video, sorry, except for when he tried to hit me good-bye, sort of, but I stepped back just in time...