Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Ukrainian coup

There is an amazing article in the New York Times describing the coup d'etat by which Yushchenko won the Ukrainian election. Of course, since the 'good' guy won, the New York Times can't call it a coup, but we can read between the lines. The coup plotters were senior officials with the Ukrainian intelligence agency, the S. B. U.:

"The officers funneled information to Mr. Kuchma's rivals, provided security to opposition figures and demonstrations, sent choreographed public signals about their unwillingness to follow the administration's path and engaged in a psychological tug-of-war with state officials to soften responses against the protests.

Ultimately, the intelligence agencies worked - usually in secret, sometimes in public, at times illegally - to block the fraudulent ascension of Mr. Yanukovich, whom several of the generals loathe. Directly and indirectly, their work supported Viktor A. Yushchenko, the Western-oriented candidate who is now the president-elect."

Remember General Smeshko, the head of the intelligence agency who is supposed to have poisoned Yushchenko at lunch? Well, it turns out that Yushchenko went back for seconds:

". . . General Smeshko left the meeting with Mr. Kuchma and headed to a S.B.U. safe house in Kiev for a secret liaison with Mr. Yushchenko, the opposition leader.

The meeting had self-evident ironies. Mr. Yushchenko, nearly incapacitated after being poisoned by dioxin in the summer, a crime that remains unsolved, had publicly linked the poisoning to a meeting with General Smeshko and another S.B.U. general.

Now he wanted another talk. The group met in a tiny room, behind a drawn yellow curtain, and ate fruit. Present were General Sarnatskyi, General Smeshko and General Romanchenko, as well as Mr. Yushchenko, Mr. Ribachuk and another Yushchenko ally.

Two agreements were struck, both sides say.

Mr. Yushchenko requested more security for his campaign. General Smeshko agreed to provide him eight specialists from the elite Alpha counterterrorism unit - a highly unusual step - and to arrange former S.B.U. members to guard the campaign.

Then the group also agreed that the S.B.U. must publicly show that it was on the side of the law, not a candidate - an implicit message the agency was unwilling to abuse power for the premier.

As the meeting ended, Mr. Yushchenko, who is an amateur artist, gave General Smeshko one of his landscape paintings. The spy chief and the opposition leader embraced."

Did Yushchenko think the Ukrainian spies weren't capable of poisoning fruit? Or was the whole poisoning story a crock of apples? It appears that the Ukrainian intelligence agency saw what was likely to happen eventually, and decided to side with the man who could bring them the most money working the kind of corruption intelligence agencies are famous for. They'll get a nice chunk of all the European and American capital that will now temporarily flow into the Ukraine.