Negotiations that appeared to promise an end to the Ukrainian political crisis, or at least a means to that end, collapsed today as the opposition led by Viktor Yashchenko pulled out of the talks. Yushchenko’s allies claim that the Kuchma government used the negotiations to “cheat”:
Ukraine’s opposition on Tuesday pulled out of talks to try to end a confrontation over last week’s disputed presidential election and vowed to use “people power” to secure victory.
“The authorities, Kuchma and Yanukovich, used the talks to cheat,” opposition leader Taras Stetskyv told thousands of supporters of losing presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko in central Kiev.
“That is why the Committee for National Salvation (opposition group) has decided to pull out of the talks. We are stopping talks with the authorities. We will talk with them only from the position of people power.”
The Reuters report does not make clear what Stetskyv meant by cheating, but the implication is that Kuchma wants to stall as long as possible, perhaps hoping for a friendly decision by Ukraine’s Supreme Court. The reference to “people power” sounds ominous — a threat to seize power via a popular uprising. This surely would be met by Russian military action and would lose the legitimacy that the West has so far provided Yushchenko. It also would result in protestors getting killed, if pressed far enough.
European negotiators from Poland and Lithuania plan on joining Russian counterparts in Kyiv later today. Hopefully they will breathe new life into talks and reach an equitable resolution. Otherwise, Ukraine looks like it may fly apart at the seams, a dangerous and possibly deadly result for all involved.
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