AP is confirming it

The AP is saying that, according to anonymous exit polling, Yushenko has an 8 point lead (45-37%).

If announced returns tomorrow differ significantly from this number, than the following graf could conceivably present a problem:

During the balloting, the Central Elections Commission building was cordoned off with waist-high metal partitions and several water-cannon and military-type attack vehicles were under camouflage webbing, apparently in expectation of demonstrations outside the building.

About a dozen trucks loaded with sand were parked in a nearby street, possibly to be used for barricades. More than 20 buses with security forces and at least five police armored jeeps were parked in downtown Kiev, about 1 mile from the commission building. About 147,000 police were on duty and thousands of additional security forces were assigned to the capital.

Let's hope that nothing happens...

Oh yeah...

If you haven't already, you need to go read Charles Krauthammer's column from Friday. Go. Now. Really. I'll wait.

Calling on in transit, calling on in transit

Radio Free Europe is reporting that we're looking at round 2 of elections. Yushenko is apparently leading in two exit polls as well. Right now, it looks like we get to look forward to three more weeks of election fun.

However, Interfax is reporting that Yanukovich was leading in earlier exit polls. They are also reporting claims of "massive" voter fraud coming from both leading camps.

In the meantime, my thug nextdoor neighbors at Bratstvo are hanging out in front of their building playing with nun-chucks and knives. Good times.


Some of the content from this article from today's Washington Post would almost be comical were it not actually true. In the grand scheme of things, what's less credible, the UN Human Rights Comittee or The Commonwealth of Independent States Election Monitoring Unit mentioned in the second paragraph? I hope the Belarussian delegation is well represented here!

You also have to love this quote:

"We don't want to dominate Ukraine. We want to develop together. But Yushchenko is very dangerous. He is surrounded by these crazy people with a Cold War mentality who hate Russia."

Does this guy realize he's talking about a country that used to be the second most important Republic in the Soviet Union and not, oh, the US?

Ballot Box

Your ballot (which is secret) is then dropped into these clear ballot boxes (note the seal and string on the outside) and you're done. Opposite these boxes there appeared to be a bunch of student type "observers" as well as one cop that all looked pretty bored.

Regarding any disturbances or shenanigans, the word on the street seems to be that things will remain quiet today and tonight. Things (in my neighborhood any) seemed to be pretty quiet all day. However, I hear rumblings that there are already plans in place for a large opposition rally (large meaning 100,000 or so) tomorrow morning at the Central Bureau of Statistics (name may be a little off), as they are already anticipating funny business with the results. As I have a real job, no desire to get stuck in the middle of a potentially dangerous situation, and no idea where the Central Bureau of Statistics is located I doubt I'll be attending this. If, however, there is a demonstration on Kreshatik or Maidan, I may go check it out, work and other factors depending, no promises. Posted by Hello

Voting Booths

You then took your ballot to the voting booths where (by hand) you checked off the box for the candidate you are voting for. Posted by Hello

Registration & Sign In

From here you proceeded to the registration sign in. Unlike the States, it appeared to be organized by street address, not last name. Here they checked your internal passport against the voter registrations and gave you your ballot. Posted by Hello

Candidate Information

A polling station other than my own. When you walk in you are able to read what looked to be pretty detailed information on all of the candidates. Posted by Hello

My Polling Place

The line in front of my polling place. Things seemed to pretty quiet there, but I didn't go in as I was by myself. I think some of the people in line (understandably) were trying to figure out why someone was taking a picture of them waiting to vote. Pictures from inside a different polling place above. Posted by Hello


In my previous post on the Guardian article about Ukrainian elections, I stated that it was entirely possible that Yanukovich could win in a fair election. Let me clarify that statement here, as I did in the comments.

Has the campaign itself been conducted fairly? Absolutely not. No impartial observor could say that. My point was that in the course of actual voting, if there are no irregularities, if everyone that is allowed to vote can vote, and if all votes are counted equally and fairly, it's still entirely possible that Yaukovich could win.

I'd love to be able to sit here and shame the Ukrainian establishment regarding the way the campaign has been conducted over the past couple of months. But in reality, the only thing I can say is absolutely appalling is the poisoning that Yanukovich is alleging that he suffered and the alleged physical intimidation of opposition supporters. Do members of opposition supporting student groups deserve to be arrested? Probably not. Then again, I don't know exactly what they were planning or doing, I can really only offer conjecture based on my own opinion and the previous actions of the administration here. Sorry, I'm not going to do that.

Look, in the U.S., which is supposed to be a paradigm of democracy and fairness, you've got establishment media figures admitting that they want Kerry-Edwards to win, and that their support is worth "maybe 15 points," you've got national television networks releasing and publicizing obviously fake documents in an attempt to discredit the president during an election, and the premier newspaper of the country trying to hype up a complete non-story regarding the war in Iraq in the days before the election in an bald-faced attempt to influence it. Christ, you've got people SHOOTING at local party operations! If all that is going on in my home country, what position am I in to honestly critiscize what's going on here?

I'm not Ukrainian and I don't have a horse in this race. I'm not backing anyone. I admittedly think that the country could have better long term prospects and it would be better for the development of democracy here if Yushenko wins. I do sincerely hope that whatever happens today and after today things are peaceful here and no one gets hurt. But all I'm doing is writing about what I see going on here, election or not. If you like it, great. If not, stick around and I'll probably post more pictures of people with Chickens.


The Guardian blows

This article in The Guardian on the Ukrainian elections is ridden with errors and is absolutely terrible. Let's look at some parts of it and see why:

The US statement will increase the tension between Moscow and Washington, which have seized on this election to back the rival candidates. Washington has sent a series of emissaries, including George Bush Sr and Henry Kissinger, to Kiev to call for fair elections.

What on earth are they talking about? While I'm sure that most in Washington would prefer to see Yushenko win the election I have yet to see any official statements saying as much. All I've seen are official (and numerous) calls for the election to be conducted fairly. Last month I actually had the opportunity to hear the U.S. Ambassador speak at a town hall meeting off the record, and when he was asked who the U.S. supported in the elections, he explicitly said that the U.S. has no problems with either leading candidate, and that official U.S. policy was only that they wanted to see the election conducted fairly. If Yanukovich wins and the vote itself isn't rigged, I don't know if the U.S. is or isn't going to impose any sort of sanctions on the new Government, neither does The Guardian. In fact, I'd wager that the U.S. doesn't 100% know what they'll do if Yanukovich wins in a completely fair election, which, based on numerous credible news reports I've read (check any of the links I've previously posted, or just do a google news search on Ukraine and start reading) strikes me as being a possibility.

He (Putin) also attended an army parade on Thursday, during which a Soviet-style show of military strength prompted the opposition to say that they were trying to frighten the electorate.

This is patently absurd. The only thing Soviet-style about this parade was the Soviet equipment, Soviet uniforms, and Soviet veterans that were marching in it. There were no brigades of Ukrainian or Russian soldiers backed up by BMPs and T-72s going through the streets of Kiev on Thursday and the entire parade passed my location in 5-10 minutes. It's been reported (and I've anecdotally heard) that troops have been positioned outside of Kiev, and the parade was given as the reason for this by the Government. Positioning troops outside of town is hardly a "soviet style show of military strength."

Earlier this week journalists of Kiev's independent TV5 staged a hunger strike, accusing the government of cracking down on the media.

Actually, they were on a hunger strike to protest a decision to revoke their station's broadcast license. The strike lasted a couple of days before the decision was reversed.

A lot of this story is true, such the parts about the T.V. journalists from State Owned 1+1 resigning because of their unwillingness to take direction on their reporting. But when I read things in the same article that I know are false, having seen the falsehoods with my own freaking eyes, it really detracts from the story as a whole. What's the Guardian going to do next, hold an "Operation Kiev Oblast?"

Lastly, if the Guardian is so concerned about Yanukovich winning the election and Ukraine consequently coming further under Russian influence and losing their independent identity, why are they posting Ukrainian election stories in their "Special Report: Russia" section?


Last night there were two options on the social calendar. Either drinking at the pub at the British Embassy with a bunch of other expats or attending a "fall ball" I was invited to at the Christian Students Association. I figured I can drink with expats whenever I want and the Christian Student thing would, at the least, be different. So the better half and I went to that. The event was billed as a celebration of Ukrainian nationalism and Thanksgiving and (presumably because of the Christian thing) there was no booze. But it was still interesting, even if elements of it did have a bit of an "up with people" feel to it. Traditional Ukrainian shirts were worn, Ukrainian food was served, Ukrainian songs were song, Ukrainian dances were danced, and Ukrainian poetry was read. Ukrainian was spoken, so I understood none of it. But everyone was really acommodating and translated stuff for me, so that was nice.

What was interesting to me was when talk changed to the election. First, everyone there was backing Yushenko, the opposition candidate. Second, there was lots of first hand talk about irregularities already occuring. People were saying that they had been left off voting lists or had had their names mis-spelled. It was advised that everyone try to sort these things out as soon as possible and that they bring their passport and a copy of their passport with them on election day to help support their ability to vote.

I was also paying attention yesterday to signs of Presidential candidate support around Kiev. I honetly don't see a lot of people that seem to be supporting Yanukovich. There was that demonstration in front of the US Embassy that I blogged about previously and I saw a group of people waving Yanukovich flags walking down towards Kreshatik (Kiev's main drag, where they held the liberation parade earlier this week) last night, but that's been about it. I've even noticed that a few billboards where there were once Yanukovich posters are now blank. I also notice that the mayor of Kiev (who really is a minor candidate) seems to have made sure that his campaign posters are displayed in the Kiev public transportation system (Metro, buses, etc...) it's quite funny to see as these aren't paid ads. They're stuck in the cashier's and guard's windows. I see signs of support for Yushenko everywhere though. Orange (Yushenko's campaign color) streamers tied to cars, people's bags, guardrails, anything and anywhere really. I don't know what these means, possibly nothing, as my viewpoint is for the most part limited to downtown Kiev. It might be like saying support for Kerry-Edwards is widespread in America because of seeing a preponderance of buttons for them in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I'm not a pollster, what do I know. But it's interesting to see.

Lot's of potential for excitement tomorrow. Hope to have interesting pics to put up. Posted by Hello


T-34 and some marching soldiers. I'm amazed that tank was even able to move. It was beyond rickety-sounding. Posted by Hello


Women got their due as well. Looks like a vintage air defense blimp that they're marching with. The only planes air defense blimps would have been protecting Kiev from in the course of a liberation probably would have been Soviet ones. Posted by Hello

Old Guys with Medals

The guys who actually did the liberating are getting a bit old to be marching around in the rain, so they were all driven in the parade. Posted by Hello

Liberation Parade

As I mentioned before, there was a parade on Thursday to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Kiev from the fascists (which actually occured sometime in November). Pictures above.

The parade itself was remarkably short, I was told that the victory day parades in May are much more impressive. I would say it took about 5-10 minutes for everyone to march or drive by. There were a fair amount of people there, but it wasn't overly crowded and a lot of atendees really didn't seem to be taking the proceedings very seriously.

What I thought was interesting was that there didn't seem to be any attempt to "Ukrainize" the proceedings at all. Marching soldiers appeared to be wearing Soviet-vintage uniforms and Soviet-era victory banners were carried in abundance. I suppose it would have been a bit silly to attempt to inject any Ukrainian nationalism in the proceedings, as Ukrainan nationalists in the early 1940s were most likely members of a Waffen-SS division or at the least were mildly pleased to have Uncle Joe kicked out of the country. But it was admittedly slightly surprising at first to see a bunch of red everywhere instead of the blue and yellow to which I am growing more accustomed. Posted by Hello

Human Garbage

This Cover of Friday's New York Post perfectly encapsulates why I hate the freaking Yankees. Look, I'm no Red Sox fan either; they finally beat the Yankees, won the world series, broke the curse, whatever. Good for them. Now please stop the whining you've been doing since 1918.

The fact that, after beating the Red Sox like a red headed step-child for the past 86 years, the New York media and the Yankee fans they pander to consider it an "insult" to have to be in Fenway for the World Series ring ceremony is quite nauseating. News flash Yankee fans: a big reason your hated rival is getting those rings while you are forced to sit and watch is because your team choked like no other has in the history of baseball. Deal with it. Posted by Hello

WaPo on Ukraine Election

Get your inform on here. Side note, if you want to draw attention to shady goings-on in a foreign election, it helps to do it more than a day before said election takes place. Expect more throughout the day and the weekend. I'm quite behind in my updates.


Ok, just one...

This Slate article on the Ukrainian elections is a good read. Informative and kind of funny, as I find most Slate articles to be.

Chicken Lady!!!

I could write more about the election, I could post pictures from the parade this morning. Today, I can do much better than all that, above you can see the previously mentioned and near legendary Chicken Lady! She does exist and I saw her this afternoon, taking her rooster for a walk in the heart of downtown. It probably doesn't have to be said, but this qualifies as exhibit two in the series "Russians are crazy." Posted by Hello


I didn't realize I actually moved to Chicago

I was talking with one of the locals in our office today about the elections here. She was telling me that she had heard that over 100,000 dead people were registered to vote. She also said that she was under the impression that some polling places were intentionally misspelling living people's names on the voter rolls so that when they come to vote, their documentation won't match the rolls and they won't be allowed to. I suppose I could tut-tut this all as shameful and unbelievable and counter productive to democracy, but I read things like this, this, or this whole collection of interesting items, and wonder if what's going on in the US is really any better or more upstanding than what's going on here. There's a possibility here that the opposition could take to the streets if they lose. In America a wife of a Vice-Presidential candidate is saying that people won't take to the street if her side wins. I certainly don't think that at it's heart, the American electoral process has completely devolved so as to be on the same level as Venezuela, Belarus, or here. But sometimes I think people across the American political spectrum are doing their damnedest to make sure we get to that point.

In other, semi-related, news, there is a parade tomorrow to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Kiev from the German fascists. Only problem is the actual liberation occurred on November 6th. Rumors are that the date was moved up to prevent giving people an excuse to gather and protest and to give the govt. an excuse to bring a lot of soldiers into the city before the elections. But these are all rumors. Again, I have no clue what's really going on. But I plan on attending the parade tomorrow. If it's good enough for Kuchma, Putin, Luckashenko, and Nazarbayev; it's good enough for me.


What's at Stake on Sunday

It just occured to me that I've been blogging about election goings-on here without really talking about what's going on and why this is actually a really important event. Thank god for the internet and columnists, because they'll do it for me and I just have to link to it. Read this Jackson Diehl column from Monday's post, or this MSNBC article, or this from Rueters, or this from the London Times to get a basic summary of what's going on and the impact that this election could have. Are things as bad as most of these people seem to think? Kind of. There's already been a lot of funny business and things are bound to get funnier. A lot of what you hear from locals, NGOs, and the media is conjecture. A lot of it isn't. The long and the short of it is that I don't think anyone knows exactly what's going to happen and (more importantly) how people will react to whatever happens. I guess I'll find out first hand on the 31st.

Should we talk about the Weather? Should we talk about the Government?

After all my bitching last week about it being cold and the district heating not being turned on, the district heating was turned on over the weekend. What happens? The weather heats up so much that we have a high today of 68. And the heating is on. Good times.

Also, in my mailbox yesterday was a notice (pictured above) telling us where we have to go to vote this Sunday. Obviously I can't vote (unless it's for Yanukovich!) but I'll try to go and get pictures of democracy in action. Hopefully, this won't lead to my getting arrested. Posted by Hello


St. George

An icon in progress. St. George. Posted by Hello

Icon Painting

Over the weekend I visited an actual icon painter. Above is her studio. She can do work on demand, but she is quite busy presently as she has been commissioned to do the entire interior of a new church going up outside of town. Related to her painting the church, she said that because she is a woman, she is prohibited from painting anything on or behind the altar. Definitely reassuring to know that Orthodoxy seems to be just as progressive about these things and Catholicism.

Amusingly, when I was leaving the Icon painter's studio I saw two Mormon missionaries walking into the painter's apartment building. Hopefully not to go bother her. Posted by Hello


A view of the scene on the street. Note the line of cops on the left. Posted by Hello

This one says (in what looks to be Ukrainian) "Women of Ukraine against Revolution!" Posted by Hello

The above sign says (in what appears to me to be Russian) "Our streets are not for tanks!" Posted by Hello

We're not gonna protest...

If the US Embassy emails me a warden message advising me to stay away from the Embassy this Friday due to a scheduled "peaceful protest" by a group called "Bereginya Ukrainy" (Protectors of Ukraine) what do they expect me to do? Why, show up and take pictures of course!

All the signs were in Ukrainian, and my Ukrainian is even worse than my Russian. But, near as I could tell, these were people all supporting the current Prime Minister in his campaign for the presidency. They were protesting because they feel that the U.S. is supporting the opposition candidate, and thus trying to subject Ukraine to a revolution. It was a completely peaceful gathering, and everyone just lined up accross the street, held up their signs, and layed out petitions complaing about whatever they were complaining about.

If anything, it got kind of boring after a while. And once I figured out that the current Prime Minister was probably behind it and nothing untowards was going to happen, I went back home for lunch. Posted by Hello


Karma, Part II

I don't think it's possible for a piece of writing to elicit less sympathy than this one does.

Take this excerpt for example: " But more than that, the outcome was particularly painful for Yankees fans whose collective identity is more in line with the bravado of the grown man from Queens who arrived at the stadium dressed like a baby in mock Red Sox regalia - complete with pacifier - shouting "Who's your daddy?" than it is with losing, especially to Boston."

As some of my New York friends put it, Human Garbage.


Take the Ukrainians bowling, take them bowling.

To an answer a question that I know everyone has being dying to have an answer to: Yes, you can go bowling in Ukraine. Posted by Hello


Karma's a Bitch

I know that by writing this I'm jinxing it, but how great would it be if this year's Dolphins went o-16? They seem to be well on their way there after losing to the previously winless Bills. Could there be a better karmic payback for those losers from the '72 Dolphins travelling around and having champagne toasts every time the last undefeated NFL team loses? If there is I can't think of it.

Stark Raven Lunatic

Last week a Russian insisted to me in conversation that Americans are crazy. This could be true, but after being here for not even two months it's quite apparent to me that Russians, Ukrainians, and all former Soviets are beyond the pale in terms of craziness. So, even though this person doesn't even use the internet, I begin another semi-regular feature. Proof that former Soviets are crazier than Americans.

Exhibit one, pictured above. These ravens (not crows) were not located at the Kiev zoo. They are located about 2 and a half blocks from my apartment. Some guy has erected behind his house a massive cage that contains three ravens he keeps as pets. The oldest is fifteen. This, self-evidently, is crazy. Perhaps crazier than the woman who keeps chickens as pets in her apartment and takes them for walks. The above birds are quite massive and they eat carrion and trash. Who wants an animal commonly associated with pestilence, death, and misfortune to be kept as a pet? In defense of the birds, they did seem to be quite well behaved and got along well with the people that were there looking at these birds. Additionally, the keeper of these birds was quite vibrantly telling a story about how there is a small chinese woman that brings tour groups to his "aviary" on regular stops to show them off as an attraction.

On a side note, the Russian word for Raven is "Voronin." For some reason this word struck me as something I recognized as a last name. Looking into it, there's a player for the Ukrainian national soccer team named Voronin, but I don't think that's where the association came from. Can anyone think of any famous Voronins? Perhaps from the NHL? Posted by Hello


Sew What

One of the more annoying aspects of doing business over here are the litany of completely asinine regulations that have to be dealt with. Usually, the reason you can't get anything done is because someone will tell you that you need a particular "Spravka" to do whatever it is that you want to do. Spravka is kind of tough to translate, as there's no exact equivalent word in English...but it's some sort of official document that will be covered in stamps and seals and the like.
Today we hit a new level in stupidity, that's pictured above. Documents we submitted to someone were rejected because they were not SEWN TOGETHER. As in with needle and thread. Think about this for a minute...I wish I was making this up. We had to take the documents back, sew them together (cooking string was used), then glue the excess string to the back of the documents under a second sheet of paper. That second sheet of paper and the documents then had to be stamped with our corporate seal. It was explained by a local that works in our office here that this is done to ensure that pages aren't removed or tampered with. Because, you know, people always want to swap out pages of a letter. Especially once they have been put directly in the hands of a recipient that is rejecting them BECAUSE THEY AREN'T SEWN TOGETHER.

I have been told of an American that used to work here. Whenever it was required for him to stamp a document he would whip out a Mickey Mouse stamp he had and use that. I have decided to rip that off and will be purchasing a stamp and ink pad set when I am next in the states. Perhaps SpongeBob, as that will be even more mystifying to the locals. Posted by Hello


I cannot live.. in the house with Puck...any longer...

In case "Pedro & Me" wasn't enough for you, Real World San Francisco loser Judd Winick seems to be attempting to milk the memory of one of his more famous cast mates some more...and introduce what looks to be a really hackneyed plot line in a comic at the same time. As if most super-hero comics weren't hackneyed enough.

Additionally, apologies to the 3 people that probably read this blog regularly for the light posting the past couple of days, but my power has probably gone out about 15 times (no exaggeration) since Wednesday morning.


What Street?

Alumni of the 515 should appreciate this.


It's not like it's supposed to be warm here...

Overnight low for tonight is being called at 27 degrees fahrenheit. District heating has yet to be turned on. Good Times!

This street led from the Opera House down to the Potemkin Stairs and the view of the port.  Posted by Hello

The port of Odessa, visible from downtown. I was told that this port mainly handles metals and minerals while cargo goes through Ilyvchesk. Personal experience confirms the latter.  Posted by Hello

The "skyline" of Odessa. Fair amount of construction, which is a good sign, I suppose.  Posted by Hello