* * *
Esteemed Editors, Columnists and Media Representatives,
On behalf of concerned members of the Ukrainian-American Community we look forward to your coverage of the critical runoff of the Ukrainian Presidential Elections this Sunday the 21st. A letter outlining the situation in Ukraine is attached below.
On behalf of the Concerned Ukrainian-American Community
Esteemed Editors, Columnists and Media Representatives,
We ask you, sir, madam, that with the pending elections in Ukraine on Sunday, your paper objectively examine the battle underway in Ukraine, not between east and west, but between forward-thinking reform and the embracing of democratic values, on the one hand and an inevitable return to Russian domination in the political, economic, and social spheres and the demise of democracy on the other. There has been much coverage, but little has ventured to document the essence of what is currently occurring in this geopolitically significant nation of 48 million.
As you know, the competition is, simply put, between the globally-minded economist Victor Yuschenko, and the Putin-supported, old-guard Viktor Yanukovich. In the first tour, the Central Election Commission publicly announced Yanukovich the winner, after only 95 percent of the votes had been tallied. Leaving aside the question of how these votes were tallied, the fact that the CEC didn't bother to count all of the votes before announcing the winner represented gross violation of electoral procedures. Days later, the truth emerged, with little media attention. As expected, Yuschenko had won the first round.
Any Ukrainian will affirm, echoing countless international election observation committees, that the Oct 31st elections were marred by widespread atrocities, including violence and voter intimidation by the government, which continues to this day. The delayed announcement of the victory of the opposition, was symptomatic of the larger problem of a biased regime, characterized by its reliance on state-run media and political intimidation. Since Yuschenko's victory, the heads of local governments in seven regions have been removed from their positions for their failure to convince their constituents of the current government's successes, thereby ensuring a Yanukovich vote. Yanukovich has spent almost a million US dollars on PR in the US, making evident his hypocrisy amidst a campaign which denounces America and his opponent's goals of global economic integration.
Yanukovich's PR campaign presents him as a realist who knows the difficulties ahead for Ukraine, and sees it as a slow path towards progress. The path will be slow indeed, if the dragging weight of Russia and the present corrupt government remain and continue to impede the development of Ukraine's economy and people. Ukraine had the fastest growing GDP in Europe, and of the 14 percent growth, less than 2 percent was invested constructively. Yanukovich claims the payment went to the repayment of debt. With 55 percent of the budget hidden from public view, it is no secret that the increasing powers of the mafia, oligarchs, and organizations with ties to the Kremlin are being felt all over the country. Putin has good reason to fear Yanukovich's loss: the win of a reformer and democrat in Ukraine may just inspire the population of Russia to demand the same in their own country.
While stifling the economy, Yanukovich continues to support further integration of Ukraine with its CES neighbors. In the meantime, Russia is expanding its political and economic power back into Eurasia, proliferating high tech, new nuclear weapons and espousing renewed integration and "friendship" with Ukraine.
For the better part of last century, the Soviet regime tightly held Ukraine in its sphere of influence. Ukraine's strategic geopolitical position, abundant and rich natural resources, and access to trade routes should now be of specific interest to Western governments
Ensuring free elections would doubtlessly prove Yuschenko the winner, as entire towns, including the nation's capital, are colored *bright orange* with his campaign hue, even as those wearing the color are often beaten by government-paid thugs.
Several severe beatings of elderly voters, protesting youth groups, and opposition supporters are being withheld from mainstream media. Journalists who speak up against the government disappear, are fired, or found beheaded, and all investigations end with an apathetic shrug, at the doorstep of the Ukrainian Government. Georgiy Gongadze was beheaded 3 years ago for speaking up against the regime. Audio cassettes prove Kuchma's implication and initiation of the effort. Nothing has happened. Years of protests were met with condescending laughter. Channel 5, the only non-state run television channel in Ukraine, is presently under siege by the government for providing televised coverage of Yuschenko's campaign. Coalitions of journalists are emerging across the globe in support of Ukraine's freedom of expression.
Even with all this corruption, intrigue, murder, and unfair advantages given to Yanukovich, the real story here is Yuschenko. From the ashes of a Soviet imperialist regime, he rose to power as a market-reformer and solid economist who introduced a new national currency, stabilized the economy, and began to turn the government towards the people.
In January 2002 Viktor Yushchenko united a broad range of democratic parties and groups to create "Our Ukraine," an electoral coalition that was the hands-down winner at the Parliament elections that year, gaining a quarter of all votes cast in party list voting and forming the largest parliamentary faction with 99 MPs in the 450-seat legislature As former head of the National Bank, and former Prime Minister, Yuschenko knows where to lead the country, and in fact, has a publicly available memorandum posted on his website www.yuschenko.com.ua, depicting what he will do every day for the first 100 days in office. In September of this year, just as he began to overtake his Soviet counterpart significantly in public opinion polls, and after a dinner with the minister of defense in early September, Yuschenko fell *mysteriously* ill with what Western medicine says is 70% likely to be bio-chemical poisoning. The documents from the hospital in Vienna disappeared, reappeared, become controversial, and then the issue is dropped without any resolution, and with doctors afraid to make conclusive statements. After the poisoning, the state-run Ukrainian media begins to report that the illness is a byproduct of Yuschenko's west-leaning lifestyle of sushi eating and wine drinking, making no subtlety of pointing out that his wife is half American. Nowhere does this same media site Yanukovich's criminal record of jail terms served for rape, assault, theft, and battery; nowhere does it site his high-level ties to the Donetsk mafia, their destructive activities, and furthermore, nowhere does it offer a glimpse of public recognition for Yuschenko, the opposition candidate, except when that recognition is defacing and negative.
Now, heavily scarred, and facially deformed from his near-death encounter with the bio-chemical campaigning of the Prime Minister, Yuschenko muscles on, gaining votes and momentum, clearly defeating his opponent in the first round of elections, even with the widespread falsifications, and in the first televised debate since independence; a debate in which Yanukovich made a point to appear crass, snide, condescending, saying things like "the new regime is here, and there is no way to dislodge it", and with true testament to Freud, saying "my goal is to make all Ukrainians feel unsafe," only to be corrected by the state-channel's moderator.
What kind of progressive is this man? After the debate, which Yanukovich concluded in Russian, as a punch in the ribs to patriots watching everywhere, pro-state panelists sat in forum to discuss Yanukovich's victory in the debate. This is not democracy, this is force-fed public opinion, which the first round of elections has shown, and the government will do what it needs to stay in power. It allowed the opposition to win the first round because the votes were too many to cover up, and arguably in an attempt to temporarily pacify the public. The Ukrainian public does not expect the regime to go quietly this Sunday.
The media of the free world has an opportunity to promote the freedom of a nation, to show the people of Ukraine that we are behind them, and to hope with them. The US government has already begun its support, sending Senator Lugar, and denying visa applications to Yanukovich cohorts, but the effort must be comprehensive. Yanukovich is certainly frightened already, as are his post-Soviet allies, who are dishing out hundreds of millions for his campaign abroad, as well as here in the States.
Esteemed colleagues, we are people who by our nature, seek freedom, meaning, purpose. I ask that you, your paper, your article, your column, please take this opportunity to report on the events, not from arms length, but from a position of objectivity and of support for freedom of speech and democracy.
Please, examine this situation, www.brama.com/news/elections.html can provide a range of articles from both sides, but the reality is clear. The US, and the world need to be made aware of the choice that is about to be made in Ukraine on Sunday, and about its implications for democracy-supporting people everywhere.
The torch is passed to you, dear colleagues. We look forward to seeing your coverage.
The Concerned Members of the Ukrainian-American Community
* * *