Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Zelensky Doomed to Be Putin’s Personal Enemy, Portnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 29 – Even though the Kremlin wanted Petro Poroshenko to suffer in the recent elections, it did not want an outsider to win – and that is exactly what happened, a development that threatens Vladimir Putin’s view of how power should be organized and thus dooms the two Vladimirs, Zelensky and Putin, to be personal enemies, Vitaly Portnikov says.

            “The victory of a candidate who looks so non-systemic over a representative of the traditional political elite is a blow to the entire post-Soviet system in which some politicians replace others even after the victory of uprisings and revolutions,” the Ukrainian analyst says (ru.espreso.tv/article/2019/04/29/vytalyy_portnykov_zelenskyy_obrechen_na_protyvostoyanye_s_putynym).

            Many Ukrainians were surprised when Zelensky after his victory told the residents of the post-Soviet states that they should see in his win the fact that “everything is possible.”  For Ukrainians, unlike for Russians and Belarusians, power has been changing hands via elections since 1991.

            “But for Putin,” Portnikov says, “there was nothing strange in this because he understands perfectly well what Zelensky wanted to say. He understands that the winner in the presidential elections in Ukraine had in mind not the change of power but the victory of a candidate not associated with the political elite of the country.”

            According to the Ukrainian commentator, “as long as Zelensky was only fighting for the post of president, Putin could not take note of this: he was too concentrated on taking revenge against Poroshenko. But then Zelensky won – and he immediately became a threat” to Putin and  his system.

            The Kremlin leader has no reason to want to see Zelensky succeed because such a success “in the eyes of Russians would mean the victory of the extra-systemic over the systemic; and for Russia this is more frightening than any Maidan. It would mean that the Kremlin by its struggle against Poroshenko had dug its own grave.”

            Consequently, Putin is going to engage in one provocation after another: the passport offer “is only the beginning. And Zelensky will respond as an extra-systemic revolutionary by a declaration of war against the Putin regime.” Unlike Poroshenko, he views Putin not as the leader of a foreign country but as the leader of an alien power.

            That makes the incoming Ukrainian leader “far more dangerous for Putin than Poroshenko has been.”  But at the same time, “Putin is a greater danger for Zelensky than he was for Poroshenko.”  To survive, Zeensky will have to appeal to “the so-called ‘Russian speaking’ electorate.”

            That electorate, Portnikov continues, consists of three parts: “those who speak Russian but accept Ukrainian values,” “those who want a rapprochement with Putin an dconsideer Ukraine part of ‘the Russian world,” and those who view Ukraine “as simply a democratic Bryansk oblast.”

            The latter may support Zelensky, but it isn’t numerous enough to be his political base, Portnikov argues.  The incoming Ukrainian president will need to recognize that in his battle with Putin, he will need the support of “the pro-Ukrainian electorate” who voted for his opponent in the elections.

            Zelensky, the Ukrainian commentator says, “can either win together with those who were his opponents or collapse if he continues to appeal to those whom he considers his allies.  That is the logic of his personal war with the Kremlin,” a war that is not just political but personal and far more dangerous as a result.

10,000 Windows on Eurasia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 29 – This is the 10,000th Window on Eurasia in the new series I launched seven years ago after our house burned and I was diagnosed with leukemia. I did not expect to reach this milestone; in fact, I did not even expect to reach the number of roughly 5,000 WOEs I prepared in the first series between 2004 and 2011.

            But as I often say to myself, better preparing WOEs than feeling woes.-- not an especially clever observation but one that is very much heartfelt. And I want to say thank you to all of you who have sent me comments, corrections, and suggestions.  I have learned an enormous amount from you. I only hope I have been able to return the favor.

            I began the Windows project 15 years ago for two reasons. On the one hand, I wanted to keep myself up to date with social and political developments in the former Soviet space, especially with regard to ethnic, regional and religious issues that all too often attract less attention than they deserve.

            And on the other, because I had the time in retirement, I wanted to share what I could with others in ways that would allow them to learn about what sources from the entire region are saying and particularly how one can learn about developments beyond the ring road around Moscow that often serves as a higher barrier than it should.

            Each day, I go through roughly 250 web pages; and each week, I look at about 200 more in a more cursory fashion.  Writing up what I find is the easier and briefer task.  Many of the websites I relied on a decade ago have shut down – or been shut down -- but many exciting new ones have emerged in their place. I am always amazed by what one can learn from them.

            Most of the time, I try to pick out an assortment of various stories to share. Sometimes, I track an issue in a more serial fashion be it the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Sochi Olympics, or just now the ongoing events in Ingushetia; and I have experimented with summary reports including “baker’s dozens” of stories.

            As my oncologist says, I must face the fact that I have leukemia, take chemotherapy every day, and am getting older. But I hope to continue to produce Windows for many years yet.  And I especially hope to hear from readers, again with comments, corrections, and suggestions for new avenues of exploration.

            Let me end this note by agaain saying thank you to all of you – and also to invite you to be in further contact via email. My address remains paul.goble@gmail.com

60 Percent of 500,000 Azerbaijanis in Ukraine are Ukrainian Citizens, Leader Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 29 – Sixty percent of the roughly half million Azerbaijanis living in Ukraine are citizens of that country and committed to its defense and well-being, Rovshan Tagiyev, the president of the Congress of Azerbaijanis of Ukraine and head of the Assembly of Nationalities of Ukraine.

            The other 200,000 Azerbaijanis in Ukraine have residence permits and many are working toward becoming citizens as well, the Azerbaijani leader says, taking pride in the fact that his community is “one of the most numerous diasporas in Ukraine” (yenicag.ru/rol-mesto-i-ves-azerbaydzhanskoy-dias/293866/).

            “Over the course of many years,” he continues, “Azerbaijanis were not very active in the social-political life of the country, but with the beginning of the formation of Azerbaijani pubic organizations, a development which began at the end of the 1990s, they have begun to display ever greater activity.”

            Tagiyev says that he can assert without any doubts that “the position of the Azerbaijani diaspora coincides with the interests of Ukraine since the integrity of the Ukrainian state is the main and key thing for it. In fact, we understand and feel all that is taking place now in Ukraine no less well than Ukrainians.”

                That is because “we dealt with the very same problems, the problems of separatism which grew into the occupation by Armenia with the help of the Russian Federation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjoining districts.”

            Consequently, “we will never allow ourselves to assert that a civil war is taking place in Ukraine. This isn’t true: there is instead a direct invasion of Ukraine by Russia.  The international community will never recognize the occupation of Ukrainian territories, and the Azerbaijanis will never recognize it as well.”

            “I am certain that a time will come and we will be able to restore relations between Russia and Ukraine,” Tagiyev says. “But only in the interests of Ukraine. The territorial integrity of our country must be restored, for any war sooner or later will end with a peace.”

            In his words, “Ukraine has enormous potential to become one of the leading states of Europe. We must simply today and say a clear ‘stop!’ to the chief internal enemy of Ukraine – corruption. Let us together defeat it and then in less then ten years Ukraine will be a flourishing state. I do not doubt that for a second.”