“Pro-Russian separatists in the embattled east of Ukraine got their way today, marring a presidential election that went smoothly across the rest of the country and was being endorsed by poll observers as the cleanest in the 23 years since Ukraine broke from the Soviet Union.” Read my full Daily Beast dispatch here.
“Exit polls tonight will give the first indication whether front-runner Poroshenko will have secured the necessary 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a June run-off. He has been widening his lead, according to recent opinion polls, over second-placed contender former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. But he may be denied an outright victory because of the crowded field, though some pollsters think he may have pulled off an absolute victory”
Fun piece by Daisy Sindelaron how some pro-Kyiv Ukrainians are nicknaming Russian separatists in the east “koloradi”, or Colorado beetles, for their orange-and-black stripes. The separatists have followed their Crimean counterparts and adopted the orange-and-black St. George ribbon as their symbol.
The ribbon is associated with World War II and worn by veterans on Russian military holidays. And as far as pro-Russians are concerned the wearing of the ribbon now is appropriate – they argue that in east Ukraine they are fighting western Ukrainian fascists and followers of World War II Nazi collaborator Stephen Bandera.
The Colorado beetle is thought to have found its way to central Europe during the 1940s having been brought in accidentally on transport ships – paranoid as ever, the Soviets after the war suggested this had been a dastardly plot by the West to ravage Soviet agriculture.
A Moscow analyst is suggesting that Russian propagandists shouldn’t get worked up about the dubbing of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine “koloradi”, suggesting they should use light-touch irony to respond by calling Ukrainian ultranationalists from the Right Sector, who favor red-and-black colors, “klop-soldatki”, or firebugs.
If yesterday’s Geneva deal aimed at “de-escalating” the Ukraine crisis fails, Russia’s top banks might be the target of the next round of Western sanctions.
This from my radio dispatch last night for VOA:
“As Western powers consider introducing further sanctions against Russia, Ukraine’s government says it has evidence that four Russian banks are involved in funding pro-Russian separatist agitation in eastern Ukraine and is urging Western politicians to sanction them.”
“Kiev officials admit they need to move fast to extinguish the growing pro-Russian insurrection in the country’s east but initial offers of reform, including greater decentralization of powers, are having no effect. The decision to dispatch the army is backfiring badly with soldiers expressing their unhappiness with being deployed against civilians, whether or not they are being egged on by Moscow, and supervised and trained by Russian advisors.”