Putin’s Warlords vs. Ukraine’s Presidential Ballot

Vladimir Putin appears determined to disrupt the May 25th presidential elections in Ukraine.

The dictator and his warlords have already gone on a rampage in eastern Ukraine’s Putinstans: they control two cities, Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, and occupy administrative buildings in several others. Their efforts to destabilize Ukraine will continue, but Putin’s warlords will likely share the fate of terrorists the world over and fail to stifle the people’s voice.  

In the absence of a full-scale war, the elections will take place, they will be fair and free, the international community will recognize them as such, and they will move Ukraine along the road to democracy. After all, Ukrainians want to vote and Kyiv wants them to vote. According to a recent poll conducted by the International Republican Institute, “Despite the fact that 64 percent of respondents believe Russia will try to disrupt or discredit the May 25 presidential election, an overwhelming 84 percent said they either will or are likely to vote. Although enthusiasm for the presidential election is highest in the west (91 percent) and center (92 percent), a majority in all regions say they either will or are likely to vote, 79 percent in the east and 62 percent in the south.”

As Russia tries to stop a genuinely democratic, internationally recognized, fair and free ballot, it risks what little reputation it has left. No one, anywhere, will be able to hang on to the illusion that Putin’s fascistoid regime is a constructive force—for peace, for democracy, or, indeed, for anything that normal, decent human beings could support. Even German business may have to agree that Putin’s Russia is a nasty piece of work.

Putin and his warlords must resort to terrorism precisely because they have so little support among the people they claim to be liberating from the “fascists” in Kyiv. According to the IRI poll:

Despite Russian propaganda and the claims of pro-Russia militants that Russian-speaking citizens need protection from Moscow, an overwhelming majority of respondents (85 percent) oppose Moscow sending troops to protect Russian-speaking citizens.

This overwhelming majority opposed to Russian intervention extends to every region (97 percent, west; 94 percent, center; 69 percent, east; 75 percent, south), to all age groups (18–29 year olds, 85 percent; 30–49 year olds, 85 percent; 50 and older, 85 percent), and to men and women (men, 84 percent; women, 86 percent). In addition, 68 percent of Russian-speaking citizens oppose military intervention by Moscow….

When asked if it was necessary for the Russian military to come into eastern and/or southern Ukraine to protect Russian speakers and ethnic Russians, an overwhelming majority (88 percent) said no. That majority was seen across all regions of the country, 98 percent in the west, 95 percent in the center, 73 percent in the east, and 86 percent in the south.

Lacking popular support in Ukraine, Putin’s warlords will do what terrorists do: seize buildings, promote anti-Semitism, imprison and kill opposition leaders, attack Roma and other minorities, take neutral observers and journalists hostage, and abuse the population of whichever cities or towns they terrorize. One especially brutal terrorist, the warlord of the Sloviansk Putinstan, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, recently told a female journalist the following: “We’ll adopt all necessary measures to prevent elections in the southeast from taking place. We’ll take someone prisoner and hang him by his balls. Got it?” It was Ponomaryov’s terrorist pals who, under the leadership of the Russian intelligence officer Igor Strelkov, took hostage a group of OSCE military inspectors on April 25th.

Although Putin and his slippery foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, will tell the world that the warlords have the support of the people, no one will believe them. Just as no one believes that al-Qaeda or the Taliban represent the people. Indeed, as Putin’s terror bands operate in Ukraine ahead of the elections, expect policymakers, journalists, and, most important, residents of the terrorized regions to reach the obvious conclusion: that Putin and his warlords are depriving the people of their voice, their livelihoods, and their lives.

Once that connection is made, watch eastern Ukrainian sentiment turn decisively against Putin. Ukrainians will be determined to vote precisely because Putin and his warlords want them not to vote. Watch Putin’s supporters in Russia scratch their heads and wonder why they voted for a loose cannon. Putin doesn’t know it yet, but his criminal decision to set up Putinstans could herald his own demise.

Is it possible that Putin’s terror will disrupt or shut down the elections? Why should it? Elections take place in extreme circumstances all the time. Look at Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite the best efforts of terrorists and warlords, Iraqis and Afghanis regularly go to the polls, thereby rebuffing warmongers and violence peddlers. Ukraine need only make sure its elections are fair and free—and with the good-faith effort of the democratic government in Kyiv and the technical assistance of the United States, the European Union, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the May 25th ballot will be fair and free and the people’s choice will be legitimate.

Putin will insist that the poll was illegitimate. But he’s been saying that all along, so why would anyone expect him to change his tune—especially after he’s been exposed as a sponsor of terrorism? Besides, who cares what he says? How many people heed the pronouncements of Kim Jong-un and Bashar al-Assad on human rights and democracy?

So why listen to a fascistoid dictator who supports terrorism and warlordism? Why listen to the Kremlin’s illegitimate ruler rant and rave about the illegitimacy of a democratic process?

Remember: It’s not a democratic ballot in Ukraine that Putin fears most. It’s a democratic ballot—period. 

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