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Donetsk-based Kirill Cherkashin answered ISRIA's questions following the election of Viktor Yanukovych as President of Ukraine

Kirill Cherkashin answered ISRIA's questions following the election of Viktor Yanukovych as President of Ukraine. Mr. Cherkashin is the Head of the Sociological Service of the Center for Political Studies (Donetsk, Ukraine), Candidate of Political sciences and an Associate Professor of Political Science at the Donetsk National University.

Summary: The possibility of court challenging by Tymoshenko seems unlikely and the international observers have unanimously recognized the elections as valid. Yet, the second round of 2010 presidential elections in Ukraine was not "perfect" and there have been some "manipulations", Cherkashin said. Anyway, the Obama administration seems configured to cooperate with Yanukovych in order to have a stable partner and a relative stability in Ukraine. The economic issues will be top priority, not geopolitics. Any membership to NATO is very unlikely as most of the Ukrainian population develops anti-NATO sentiments rather than just simply opposing the membership.

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1. Sources from Tymoshenko's staff said that there may be court challenge regarding the holding of the elections last sunday. Can one think Yanukovych is already the President of Ukraine or should one wait for that the appropriate institutions put forward their opinion?

K.C.: One can consider Yanukovich the legal President of Ukraine only after his oath and assumption the office, which is consistent both with the Ukrainian legislation and international standards. As soon as CEC announces the results of the elections, which will take place in the nearest future, he can be considered the winner of the election campaign-2010. At least, until this decision isn`t challenged in the court. Nevertheless, the possibility of court challenging seems unlikely. Although there have been some mutual distortions of the voters' true will, all the missions of international observers recognized the elections valid and passed in accordance with basic democratic standards.

2. In a statement delivered by its embassy in Kiev, the United States commends the Ukrainian people on the conduct of the second round of presidential elections, does it mean Washington is fully ready to work with Yanukovych already?

K.C.: As we noted above, the second round of presidential elections-2010 in Ukraine was not "perfect". There have been some "manipulations", however, applied by the two staffs and were unlikely to determine the outcome of elections. Among such "manipulations", which are questioning the democratic will of the procedure, are the following.

    • 1. Artificial mobilization of voters (free delivery of voters to polling stations; facts of "compulsion to vote" in a number of organizations (not even for a particular candidate, but generally),
    • 2. Imperfect electoral law and making corrections to the election law "at the last moment",
    • 3. Uncertainty of operating procedures for voting at home (without checking the supporting medical certificates) and enrolling the voters to the list on the polling day,
    • 4. Secrecy of some information about the voting results on the official website of the Central Election Commission of Ukraine (no data on the total number of voters in the territories and the number of voters received ballots).

In our view, such a rapid acceptance of democratic Ukrainian elections-2010, while some "issues" would occur, indicates that the administration of Barack Obama is configured to cooperate with Yanukovych. Apparently, this is due to three factors.

    • 1. Recognition of his Yanukovych's greater popularity in the Ukrainian society.
    • 2. Unreliability and dubious of his rivals (including "the case of Lazarenko", Tymoshenko`s populist statements, etc.).
    • 3. Desire to have a stable partner and a relatively stable situation in Ukraine. This could provide the leaders of the "Orange Movement" (Yushchenko, Tymoshenko) that came to power in the wake of the fight against falsification of elections-2004. In recent years, they expressed the opinion of the minority population of Ukraine and, therefore, they were unable to secure the stability in large areas of Ukraine.

3. Some commentators in Washington D.C. seem surprised by this announcement which "has been issued too quickly", they say. Does it show any change in how the Obama administration deal with Ukraine compared to Bush's?

K.C.: Apparently, the administration of Barack Obama wants to "disown" the already losing "orange project" of Bush in Ukraine, and to demonstrate that the relationships between the two countries will be built in a new way (probably as in the early years of President Leonid Kuchma).

4. Most experts say that the top priority for Yanukovych won't be to make any choice between the EU and Russia but to deal with the economic crisis. Do you agree with this statement and what is your appreciation of the economic situation in Ukraine?

K.C.: We agree with the assertion that the priority for the Yanukovich will be not the geopolitical, but economic issues. Since, geopolitically Ukraine is in "stuck", the greater integration with the EU is not possible. Among other reasons due to if only because of economically disadvantaged situation in the country and anti-Western sentiments of a large segment of the population; too much integration with Russia would not benefit the Ukrainian political elite, as they face loss of power. The new president will practice "multidirectional" cooperation with the West and Russia. The economic problems are really acute, as they have been precipitated by the global economic crisis and, above all, the political instability of recent years within the country. The new president will have to talk about economic problems and will have to solve them. I am not an economist, so it is difficult to give a detailed assessment of the economic situation in the country, but in general it is not satisfactory (for the reasons mentioned above). Key figures: 1) low standards of living (even in comparison with neighboring countries, the former USSR states), 2) the lack of perspectives of thoughtful, purposeful, and above all efficient and complete economic reforms.

5. Can one say that with the election of Yanukovych, Ukraine's ambition to get NATO membership is over?

K.C.: Certainly, Mr. Yanukovich will not act as a supporter of the country's accession to NATO. However, Ukraine will continue to apply forces, which will not abandon this idea, and will consider it for themselves as one of the key ones (the nationalist and national-democratic "movements"). The need for entry the NATO will be defended by the "right opposition" ( "Our Ukraine", part of the YTB). Although, this idea is very unfruitful, because a large proportion of the population is not simply against joining the Alliance, but is very opposed and claims "anti-NATO" ideas.

6. In 2004 when the Orange revolution changed the political landscape in Ukraine, the West supported now former President Viktor Yushchenko, especially because of his poisoning with dyoxine. Is there any credible information today about who/what was behind such an attempt?

K.C.: This case in Ukraine is already quiet one. Recently it has not been updated in the public consciousness. For most people, everything
remains a mystery - as what had actually happened, and who had been involved in this. Presumably, the majority of people have a little faith in the version of the poisoning. They are inquiring: "Otherwise, why this high-profile case has still not been solved?". The detractors of President Yushchenko (who are of considerable amount nowadays) share these prevailing ideas: 1) the poisoning was due to a bad plastic (cosmetology) tampering with the appearance of Mr. Yushchenko, and 2) the "poisoning" bore artificial and deliberate nature, in order to provide Yushchenko on the eve of 2004 elections with a status of "victim" of the old regime, with increased chances of winning as a result.

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