Ukraine’s Dueling Elections

Exclusive: Voters in two eastern Ukrainian provinces showed strong support for secession from the coup regime in Kiev, but the U.S. State Department and other regime supporters reject the outcome and vow to press ahead with a special presidential vote on May 25, Robert Parry reports.

By Robert Parry

Despite many procedural shortcomings, the referenda for secession in eastern Ukraine confront the post-coup regime in Kiev and its Western backers with a growing problem, the realization that major ethnic Russian population centers near the Russian border reject the new right-wing national leaders and favor independence.

The U.S. State Department and the mainstream U.S. press will, of course, dismiss the significance of the voting in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk because of the chaotic circumstances in the region, but the seemingly high turnout and overwhelming vote for secession indicate that there is widespread popular support for the armed resistance to the Kiev authorities who took power in February after the violent overthrow of elected President Viktor Yanukovych, whose political base was in the east.

A pile of "yes" votes at a Donetsk polling place favoring secession in the referendum on May 11, 2014.

A pile of “yes” votes at a Donetsk polling place favoring secession in the referendum on May 11, 2014.

Popular support for the anti-regime rebels was not entirely clear despite the apparent public tolerance of the separatist forces that seized control of about a dozen towns and cities in the industrial region known as the Donbass. But now, even the New York Times, which has been an unabashed supporter of the Kiev regime, acknowledged that “the referendums demonstrated that there was substantial popular support for the pro-Russian separatists in some areas.”

When the rebellion began, the Kiev regime called the separatists “terrorists” who were being manipulated by Moscow and would be soon crushed by Ukrainian troops. But hundreds of civilians in the east set up roadblocks, causing many soldiers to refuse to fire on their countrymen. Some soldiers even abandoned their armored personnel carriers.

That led to the dispatch of new special units drawn from the neo-Nazi militias that spearheaded the Feb. 22 coup against Yanukovych and now have been incorporated into the National Guard.

Though the introduction of these special units have led to dozens of deaths among the ethnic Russian resistance – including at the grisly fire in Odessa on May 2 – the violence has done little to cow the people of the rebellious region who turned out in large numbers on Sunday despite two attacks marring the mostly celebratory air at the referenda.

One of Kiev’s special units, known as the Dnepr Brigade, attacked a polling place at the City Hall in the town of Krasnoarmiysk on Sunday afternoon, causing the vote organizers to grab ballot boxes and run. When a civilian tried to block other soldiers from entering the building he was shot dead, according to an account in the New York Times.

Two other civilians were wounded in the village of Baranikovka in the Luhansk region when, according to the Interfax news agency, Ukrainian soldiers fired into a crowd blocking National Guard armored vehicles.

Despite Sunday’s strong expression of public support for secession, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called the voting “illegal under Ukrainian law, and … an attempt to create further division and disorder.” She vowed that the United States would not recognize the results.

The next step for the State Department will be to promote a special Ukrainian presidential election called by the Kiev regime for May 25, with only regime supporters being given any chance of victory after major candidates representing the anti-coup east withdrew from the race, citing threats of arrest and physical attacks.

Whereas State Department officials dismissed the legitimacy of Sunday’s referenda, in part, because of eastern Ukraine’s violence and disorder, that argument is sure to disappear in the run-up to the May 25 election.

To guarantee that the West’s news media is reading from the right script, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Richard Stengel left for Kiev and other European capitals “to stress the need for greater regional engagement to support Ukraine’s upcoming May 25 elections,” the State Department announced, saying Stengel would “push back against efforts to delegitimize [the elections] and ensure that all Ukrainians are given the chance to decide their future for themselves.”

During a stop in Brussels, Belgium, “Under Secretary Stengel will engage with a wide spectrum of European media and think tank leaders to discuss the current crisis in Ukraine; highlight U.S support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine; emphasize the importance of ensuring Ukraine’s upcoming elections are free, fair and transparent; and reaffirm the value America places on the Transatlantic partnership,” a State Department release said.

Stengel is the same official who on April 29 issued a sloppily prepared “Dipnote” that made broad-brush criticisms of RT’s content, accusing the Russian network of painting “a dangerous and false picture of Ukraine’s legitimate government.” But Stengel’s commentary failed to include citations to the offending articles and also revealed a stunning ignorance of the events surrounding the Ukraine crisis. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Who’s the Propagandist, US or RT?”]

During my days in the 1980s as a reporter for the Associated Press and Newsweek – when the Reagan administration began emphasizing “public diplomacy” by setting up special PD offices – we would often refer to them as sources of “propaganda and disinformation.” Three decades later, it doesn’t seem that much has changed.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

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16 comments on “Ukraine’s Dueling Elections

  1. W. R. Knight on said:

    So who in the hell do Under Secretary Stengel and Jen Psaki work for? And is Kerry now a puppet for someone higher. I know it’s not Obama. This has been going on since long before Obama’s time. So who is it?

  2. incontinent reader on said:

    More telling than anything the State Department could say or do to discredit the Mother’s Day referendum were pictures of voters that could have been of anyone’s grandmother or uncle or cousin casting their ballots for what they want for their political future. Whether our government likes it or not, this was democracy in action, and it made clear that the Kiev government, and Washington’s and Brussels’ support of it, are not only illegitimate, they are irrelevant. When our government can have the gall to label as ‘terrorists’ people exercising their political rights in a peaceful way- whether by voting in a referendum to show Kiev, the US-NATO and the rest of the world that they reject an illegal government that overthrew the one they elected and want nothing to do with Kiev, or by confronting tanks on the street and lecturing the drivers or gunners, or getting shot at by tanks or mercenary Academi commandos sent in to overturn the process- what our Government says about it also becomes a veiled threat to Americans that if we protest and demand our rights in a form of peaceful civil disobedience, we too could be met with soldiers and tanks and the ‘terrorist‘ label by a disingenuous and glib Administration and media.

    Frankly, this referendum was inspiring to people around the world- and was a wakeup call to many here at home- and Washington, Brussels and Kiev know it and cannot ignore it. So, if our Congressional representatives remain blind, and fail to demand of the Administration a realistic policy, and one that is more in keeping with our expressed values, they will have made it clear they too have no business sitting in Washington after their next election cycle.

    God bless these people for standing up for their rights, and doing it in such a right way.

  3. fosforos on said:

    Good article, as usual. But marred by misspelling of “Lugansk” as “Luhansk.” What am I supposed to answer if someone were to ask “How can I trust someone’s views on the Ukraine when he doesn’t even know that “H” in cyrillic script stands for “g” in our latin script?”

    • Bill Jones on said:

      You could tell them to go fuck themselves.

    • Luhansk (Ukrainian: Луга́нськ, IPA: [luˈɦɑɲsʲk]) or Lugansk (Russian: Луга́нск, IPA: [lʊˈgansk]). Find it on Wikipedia. “Luhansk” is Ukrainian pronunciation, “Lugansk” Russian pronunciation.

      • Yaroslav on said:

        And it is too a bit misleading. Just in Ukrainian G is frikative unlike Russian, but it’s still G, not H.
        :)

  4. F. G. Sanford on said:

    Is it possible that Dana Rohrbacher is the only honest politician left in the United States? I really don’t like the man or his politics; to me, his viewpoints generally seem consistent with a rigidness of thinking defined by partisan politics rather than any even-handed appraisal of the issues. That said, I had to wonder if he might be the only American in Congress who remembers why my father and my uncles all went to war against Nazi Germany.

    To anyone minimally informed on the issue of Ukraine, we are witnessing atrocities committed on behalf of an illegally installed government. Truly democratic, peaceful dissent is being labeled “terrorism”, and people are paying with their lives for resisting the subversion of justice by a criminal regime.

    I was surprised when I watched Rohrbacher corner Victoria Nuland, essentially forcing her to grudgingly concede that there were neo-Nazis operating in Maidan Square. I have to hand it to the man. He apparently has a streak of something utterly lacking in American politics today. Courage.

    When I read Jen Psaki’s statement regarding America’s position on the referenda in Eastern Ukraine, I could only wonder at the gargantuan hypocrisy our government has embraced. Where do we find such unmitigated, bald-faced liars? Do they just keep her locked in a cellar, completely isolated from the truth, and let her out when they need a mouthpiece?

    Since when is voting an activity contrary to democratic principles? Slowly but surely, the same repression of truth and democracy will be turned against us if this continues. As our State Department representatives campaign for these policies in Europe and Ukraine, note that they are directing their energies to represent “think tanks” and financial oligarchs. “We the People” of America, and “They the People of Ukraine” have no say in any of this. They are getting the government Victoria Nuland picked for them, like it or not. Hats off to Dana Rohrbacher.

    • Yaroslav on said:

      And do you still believe that you live in democratic country? Well, well…

    • First of all I think you are absolutely right about this: “Slowly but surely, the same repression of truth and democracy will be turned against us if this continues. ”

      Secondly, was Rohrbacher’s questioning even mentioned anywhere in the establishment media?

    • carroll price on said:

      Mr. Sanford,
      If Sen. Dana Rohrbacher remembers why your father and uncles were fighting against Germany in WW 2, he remembers something that not many Americans knew, then or now. Including the troops who were fighting under Gen. Eisenhower, who after talking with his troops during the war, made the comment that most of them did not have the vaguest idea why they were fighting in Europe. I apologize for being unable to locate a link to Eisenhower’s comments, but all serious students of WW 2 history will immediately recognize what I am referring to.

  5. Mark on said:

    Isn’t it funny how the US supports the coup regime which is despised by more and more people with each passing die, while denying the basic right of self-determination and the expression of free will to the people of Eastern regions?

  6. Ahem on said:

    It’s way past time for the US and other “regime changers” to mind their own business and start directing their attention to taking care of their own citizens; interfering with foreign governments is not part of that care. I know that the main focus of our interest is the fossil fuels industry everywhere and anywhere, but if we want to share in that resource, all we have to do is negotiate peaceably. It’s time for us to mature and realize that our game is not the only game in town.

  7. Socaldoc on said:

    I can not believe I came across another point of view in the American news. I am a Ukrainian who now lives in LA. I am really disturbed by the way US is acting. I watch RT news, CNN, BBC, Ukrainian channels and some other ones to get all points of view. However, It is impossible to watch CNN as it mirrors exactly the Ukrainian news. How can people living in the Eastern Ukraine be called “terrorists, pro-Russian separatists”? Jen Psaki acts like a parrot by only repeating the same thing at all of the press conferences regardless of what happened in Odessa or in Mariupol. Why not a single person is talking about violation of human rights that are going on every single day? I can not watch the videos where they show these Nazi thugs making jokes while stealing phones and money from the corpses, calling them “barbecued negroes”. They shout “death to those Colorado bugs Russians”, isn’t it a genocide? A pregnant woman was raped and strangled, people jumping out from the windows were hit on the head, some were missing the limbs. Is that how the US wants to deal with those having a different opinion? In Mariupol the videos clearly show the militants shooting regular bystanders. Unbelievable that US supports this, oh wait, they started and orchestrated it.

  8. Michael Kenny on said:

    “Major ethnic Russian population centers”? Donetsk province is 57% Ukrainian, 38% Russian, Lugansk, 58 – 39. Outside of Crimea, the Russians are largely the result of Soviet-era colonisation and, for that reason, are scattered all accross the country. Ukraine was 9% Russian in 1922, 22% in 1989. It was down to 17% in 2001 and is no doubt continuing to drop as the old generation dies off and the young generation integrates into modern Ukrainian society. Why should a hminority of elderly colonists be allowed to force the Ukrainian majority to accept re-annexation by the former colonial power? You Americans, being yourselves a pure product of colonialism, never understand what an evil colonialism is to those who have suffered under it.

    • MarkU on said:

      Your despicable distortions need a response.

      Firstly, the current state known as Ukraine was cobbled together in 1917 by the Soviets. The regions east of the river Dneipr were included as a piece of gerrymandering intended to keep the Ukrainian nationalists in check. In no sense are those people colonists.

      Secondly, you are deliberately focusing on ethnicity when the real political divide is on linguistic lines, it is Russian speakers rather than simply Russians who are resisting the fascist putsch government.

      It is obvious by now that you care nothing for the truth, you are just a propoganda merchant, but for anyone who does, the real situation is like this:-

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/12/09/this-one-map-helps-explain-ukraines-protests/