Sunday, January 31, 2010

Went over to the Left Bank to visit our extended family, took these two quick photos with my iPhone (and the lovely Hipstamatic app):





We take it for granted, but the contrast between the gloomy bellies of our apartment blocks - podyezdy/paradnyye - and the cozy apartments that you escape to is just crazy...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I cursed a lot when I saw that picture of a Moscow cop detaining Lyudmila Alexeyeva (82 and dressed as Snegurochka), following the New Year's Eve opposition rally.

This profile of Alexeyeva in the New York Times is a much more adequate response to what happened than cursing - a cool way of sending something of a "fuck you" postcard to the regime. (Thanks for the link to Matthew Bown of IZO.)

Below are some of my favorite passages:

You almost feel sorry for the police officer tasked with detaining Lyudmila M. Alexeyeva as she led an unsanctioned protest on New Year’s Eve. It is not just that at 82 years of age she appears as fragile as a porcelain teacup, or that she was dressed as a Snow Maiden, complete with sparkly hat and adorable fur muff.

That is part of it. The other part is that as a young woman, Ms. Alexeyeva sat through so many K.G.B. interrogations that she rolls her eyes rather than count them. She was developing a variety of strategies to distract, deflect and otherwise irritate the authorities before the police officer’s parents were out of grade school.

Upon hearing the details of Ms. Alexeyeva’s arrest, Paul Goldberg — who wrote with her “The Thaw Generation: Coming of Age in the Post-Stalin Era,” her memoir of life as a dissident — started to laugh. “They should actually print out pictures of Lyudmila Alexeyeva and hand them out to all the law enforcement authorities with a note saying ‘Do not arrest this person,’ ” said Mr. Goldberg, now an editor in Washington. “It is not fun to tangle with this person. She will make you feel like dirt, and she will not do it gratuitously. She will do it because you are dirt.”

[...]

Everyone knew the sentence for crimes against the state: seven years in a penal camp and five years in exile. On her way into K.G.B. headquarters, Ms. Alexeyeva would stop to buy a ham sandwich, an éclair and an orange. These were delicacies in the 1970s, even for the investigator, who was headed for a lunch of gray cutlets. Halfway through, Ms. Alexeyeva would unwrap her lunch and lay it out on the table.

“They reacted very nervously when they started to smell ham,” she said with a sweet smile. “Then I would start eating the orange, and the aroma would start dissipating through the room.” The effect was reliably hypnotic.

“That’s how I amused myself,” she said. “It was a way to play on his nerves.”

[...]

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Yulia is closer than ever to becoming president - and our sissy boys are getting out of control. Or has it always been like this?

Here's what Yanukovych said (UKR) about Tymoshenko a few days ago in Kharkiv, as he refused to confront her in live TV debates:

They tell me it's pointless to argue with a woman - it's wrong, I don't agree with it. More than anything else, I regard her as prime minister, and she should take responsibility for her every word. And if she's a woman, then she must go to the kitchen and show off her whims there.


And here's what writer Oles Buzyna wrote about Tymoshenko in Rinat Akhmetov's Segodnya newspaper:

The way Yulia Vladimirovna aspires to become president is similar to how a woman twice divorced aspires to re-marry.

Monday, January 18, 2010

At our polling station, the turnout was 67.63% yesterday - about 1% higher than nationwide.

533 votes were cast, and 255 ballots (32.37%) were left untouched.

Of these 533 ballots, three (0.56%) were deemed invalid.

149 (27.95%) of my neighbors have voted for Tymoshenko;

106 (19.88%) - for Tihipko;

105 (19.69%) - for Yanukovych;

40 (7.50%) - for Yatsenyuk;

36 (6.75%) - for Yushchenko;

35 (6.56%) - for Hrytsenko;

24 (4.50%) - for Symonenko;

11 (2.06%) - for Lytvyn;

9 (1.68%) - against them all;

7 (1.31%) - for Tyahnybok;

2 (0.37%) - for Kostenko and Ratushnyak;

1 (0.18%) - for Bogoslovka, Brodsky, Moroz, Protyvsikh;

0 - for Pabat, Ryabokon, Suprun.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

We're back home in Kyiv. Went out for drinks in the evening, picked up a copy of Kyiv Post, read this beautifully idiotic sophomoric editorial endorsement of Serhiy Tihipko.

Very amusing. Or not. Depends on what you expect from KP.

But definitely a good illustration of how crazy and pathetic things are here on the eve of the election, and how desperate we are.

Here's what they have to say about the candidate they seem to be endorsing:

[...] Like many of his opponents, he is also a product of the Soviet era as well as the corrupt post-Soviet era of ex-president Leonid Kuchma. He rubbed shoulders with greedy oligarchs, even helping them build one of Ukraine’s largest banks during the crony capitalist 1990s. He violated basic conflict of interest rules as the head of the National Bank of Ukraine while building up a personal banking fortune. Tigipko also has no clear team or power base in parliament to rely upon.

Most troubling, he is tainted by his role as campaign manager in the 2004 presidential election campaign of Yanukovych, the front-runner in the current election. To his credit, Tigipko resigned after the fraudulent second round. He now admits that vote fraud occurred, but insists that both sides were to blame and downplays the extent of falsification in favor of Yanukovych. Moreover, Tigipko has yet to come clean with what he knows about these horrible crimes and his possible involvement in them.

Will he help solve a long list of other major crimes that continue to haunt this country, such as the murder of opposition politicians and journalists, unfair privatizations, Yushchenko’s poisoning and dozens of others? This answer is also unclear. [...]


How lovely.

But -

[...] Despite these reservations, we find enough to like about Tigipko to endorse him. [...]


The rest of the editorial is about "hope" and "gamble" - and about the lesser evil, of course (yes, again):

[...] Tigipko is the lesser of the 18 evils in this vote, especially if he is capable of resolving differences among warring factions and convincing the nation’s politicians to put Ukraine’s interests ahead of their own.


Tihipko, let me remind you, "has no clear team or power base in parliament to rely upon," according to allegedly the same folks who wrote the optimistic concluding sentence above.

This disclaimer seems to be worth quoting, too - I find it very moving somehow:

[...] Before we go into our choice and reasoning, we want to make it clear that this endorsement solely represents the opinion of the editorial staff of the Kyiv Post. Our view is independent of publisher Mohammad Zahoor, who wants it made clear publicly that he is a foreign businessman who does not take sides with any politician in the presidential race. So any fault in logic is our own. [...]


And - there's not a single mention of Russia in this piece, which is kind of refreshing: I'm so tired of reading all the Russocentric commentary on Ukraine in the English-language media.

***

All I can say about Tihipko is that he should have run for president in 2004, instead of Yanukovych. In 2010, he is five years late.

And I've also heard that he is too sensitive about his receding hairline - but this is irrelevant, I know.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Amazing that the election is five days away and we're sitting here in Istanbul, enjoying the luxury of not having to look at their idiotic campaign ads every step we make and not having to listen to their crap on Savik Shuster's show every night.

We do receive the most essential news from back home regularly, though: today, we've learned that they are still not cleaning away the snow in Kyiv, and yesterday we saw enough links to this FT editorial to make us click on it today and read it.

Below is the final paragraph:

[...] So, whom to back in Sunday’s first round and next month’s run-off? Given the candidates’ shortcomings, voters must focus on what is important. The key now is political stability. Only a stable Ukraine can achieve economic reform and recovery. Ms Tymoshenko is the polar opposite of a stabilising force. Mr Yanukovich, for all his manifest faults, may prove the lesser evil. Pity Ukraine that it has come to this.


My reaction to the piece is a sigh and an "oh..." - and then this: No way am I going to vote for "the lesser evil" - or for Yanukovych in any other disguise. The lesser evil always turns into the bigger evil in Ukraine, and Yanukovych sucks in general. And Tymoshenko, for all her faults, isn't Petro Symonenko, either - the way Symonenko was in 1999, that is, when so many people voted for Kuchma as "the lesser evil"...

It's hard to avoid mixing some unmixable things when using such a cursory approach to Ukrainian politics as mine is now: Kyiv used to be cleaner under Kuchma; Gongadze disappeared under Kuchma; Yushchenko has failed to solve the Gongadze case; streets might be cleaner under someone else than the current folks, but none of them are going to do anything about the Gongadze case.

Back to square one: whatever.

And I'm now late for breakfast, too: screw them all.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Saturday, January 02, 2010