- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Open revolt

Senior diplomats at the Ukrainian Embassy yesterday declared themselves in a “state of revolution” against their own government, actively supporting protests in favor of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko in the country’s fiercely disputed presidential election.

Oleksandr Potiekhin, the embassy’s political counselor, said more than 60 Ukrainian diplomats around the world have signed a letter drafted in Washington slamming Sunday’s runoff vote, our correspondent David R. Sands reports.

In Ukraine yesterday, election officials certified Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, strongly backed by outgoing President Leonid Kuchma and by Russian President Vladimir Putin, as the narrow winner.

Mr. Potiekhin said Ukraine’s diplomatic corps strongly backs the protesters, who have thronged central square in the capital, Kiev, to reject the result.

“The Foreign Ministry is a ministry in a state of revolution, against the criminal regime of President Kuchma,” he told the American Enterprise Institute in a forum on the election.

“We are with the people of Ukraine. We are with Mr. Yushchenko,” he said.

Another senior Ukrainian diplomat estimated privately that virtually all of the Foreign Ministry, including officials in Kiev, rejected the election results, and that 80 percent of the employees in other ministries did as well.

Oleksandr Shcherba, also in the embassy’s political section, acknowledged at the forum that the protesting diplomats are “risking our careers” by speaking out.

“But for us, it is a choice between a people’s revolution and a criminal revolution” organized by the Kuchma government, he said.

The other two diplomats who signed the letter are Yuriy Parkhomenko and Volodymyr Chumak.

Mr. Shcherba and Mr. Potiekhin denied that the standoff reflected divisions within Ukraine between the western part of the country and the Russian-speaking east, where Mr. Yanukovych received most of his support.

Mr. Shcherba said the four who signed the letter included two who speak Ukrainian and two who speak Russian.

Mr. Potiekhin said the split in Ukraine is between “people whose eyes are open, who are looking to the future and to positive change, and those who have been brainwashed.”

He said that Mr. Kuchma, who remains for now his nominal boss, “provoked the country into revolution,” but the protests have been peaceful.

“It will be the government of Ukraine that would be 100 percent responsible for any violence,” he said.

Ambassador Mykhailo Reznik did not sign the protest letter, but embassy sources say he was studiously neutral in the election and put no pressure on staffers to back Mr. Yanukovych.

In their letter, the diplomats said, “We are convinced that silence today would result in the further decline of Ukraine’s prestige, and turn our diplomatic service into the instrument” of illegitimate power.

Disgust in Congress

Congressional human rights leaders yesterday accused the Ukrainian government of election fraud and cheered on the crowds protesting in Ukrainian cities.

“I admire the bravery and determination of those demonstrating their desire for an honest count of election votes and encourage Ukrainians to continue their resolve in their pursuit of democratic freedoms,” said Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican and co-chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Colorado Republican and the other co-chairman, accused Ukrainian authorities of thwarting “the will of the Ukrainian people through intimidation, manipulation and outright falsification.”

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, the commission’s senior Democrat, added, “The level of fraud witnessed by Ukrainian and international [election] observers is shocking.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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