Saturday, May 26, 2007
The crisis in Ukraine continues to rapidly worsen. First we had the President dissolving parliament, parliament ignoring the order and the Constitutional Court hemming and hawing over what to make of the whole mess. Then we had duelling street demonstrations, with orange and blue flags reappearing on the streets of Kyiv, 2004-style. Then we had Viktor Yushchenko, the pro-Western president, and Viktor Yanukovich, the Moscow-backed prime minister, agreeing that the way out of the crisis was to hold fresh elections, but unable to set a date for said vote to happen.
Does Ukraine have a parliament? It's unclear. Will there be elections? Probably, but no one knows when.
Now we have President Yushchenko firing Svyatoslav Piskun from his post as Prosecutor-General, supposedly because Piskun was a member of parliament and couldn't hold both posts. Never mind that Piskun was a member of a parliament that Yushchenko had theoretically dissolved.
In the past few days, the crisis has slid from the farcical to the highly dangerous. On Thursday, Interior Minister Vasily Tsushko, a Yanukovich ally, sent troops to Piskun's office - not to evict him, but to protect him. Yushchenko responded by putting the Interior Ministry's 40,000 troops under his command - a move that Yanukovich says is unconstitutional and shold be ignored.
Where all this is heading is unclear, but the tug-of-war over the Interior Ministry troops is as dangerous a crisis as any Ukraine has faced since it won independence 16 years ago. The latest reports are that 2,000 Interior Ministry troops loyal to Yushchenko are moving towards the capital.
Yushchenko has for months been warning that Yanukovich and his allies have been preparing a "creeping coup." Until now, it was assumed that he was referring to allegations that Yanukovich and his allies had bribed MPs from pro-Western factions into crossing the floor, putting the pro-Russian bloc on the verge of the two-thirds majority in the Verkhovna Rada needed to change the constitution.
Yushchenko's latest moves suggest that as the crisis deepens, he's also worrying about the possibility of a coup in the more conventional, military sense.