Cablegate: Russian Public Reactions to Ukraine Elections

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1. (SBU) Summary: The Russian press and analysts in public
statements overwhelmingly welcomed Viktor Yanukovych's victory in
the February 7 presidential run-off elections in Ukraine, although
they do not expect Yanukovych to be a pro-Russian push-over. Some
see his victory as the end of Orange revolution ideas, while others
enviously point to Ukraine's freedom of choice as a fruit of the
revolution. Almost all expect Yanukovych to continue Ukraine's
course towards western integration (apart from NATO). In the eyes
of some, Yulia Tymoshenko's political career has passed its prime.
End Summary.


2. (SBU) Despite the close result of the February 7 Ukrainian
presidential run-off elections and allegations from second-placed
Yulia Tymoshenko about fraud, Russia has recognized the results of
elections. On February 9, President Medvedev congratulated Viktor
Yanukovych on what the Kremlin cautiously phrased as the "completion
of the election campaign" and Yanukovych's success in the
presidential elections. The MFA issued a statement hoping that the
new administration of "friendly Ukraine" will develop
good-neighborly relations with Russia. Patriarch Kirill, leader of
the Russian Orthodox Church, congratulated Yanukovych on his victory
and praised Yanukovych for having the talent and experience to
justify the trust placed in him. Although State Duma Speaker Boris
Gryzlov suggested that Yanukovych should only be congratulated after
his inauguration, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal
Democratic Party, was among the first to congratulate Yanukovych.
He also sent a consolation letter to Tymoshenko.

3. (SBU) Russian political analysts such as Duma Deputy Konstantin
Zatulin agreed with Presidential adviser Viktor Chernomyrdin that
mass protests against the results of election were unlikely. Former
State Duma deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov stated publicly that if Russia,
the U.S., and the EU all recognized Yanukovych's victory, there
would be no chance for street protests.

Orange Revolution

4. (SBU) Pundits are divided over whether Yanukovych's victory
spells the defeat of the Orange Revolution. Ryzhkov thought the
elections confirmed the principles of the Orange Revolution because
it showed Ukraine possessed freedom of speech and competitive
elections. Matvey Ganapolskiy on the independent radio station Ekho
Moskviy praised Ukrainians for being free to choose anyone they
liked to be Ukrainian president.

5. (SBU) Zatulin said Yanukovych's victory showed the "orange color
has lost appeal much faster than the red", and accused the Orange
Revolution parties of splitting the country. Pro-government daily
Izvestia noted that the revolutionary fervor of five years ago was

Yanukovych's policies

6. (SBU) Although the chairman of the Russian State Duma
International Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachev, praised
Yanukovych on Russian Defense Ministry-controlled Zvezda TV for
"aspiring to become a national leader," analysts are not all
starry-eyed about Yanukovych. Former Head of Russian Presidential
Administration Internal Policy Directorate Modesty Kolerov called
Yanukovych a weak politician who will not be able to maintain his
achievements, due to his need to balance between Western and Eastern
Ukraine, Russia and the West, nationalists and Russian-speakers, and
various business groups.

7. (SBU) Almost all experts and politicians expect Yanukovych to
continue Ukraine's course towards western integration, albeit
without anti-Russian rhetoric. Chief editor of the academic journal
"Russia in Global Politics", Fedor Lukyanov, believes that
Yanukovych will continue former president Kuchma's policy -- "very
careful movement toward the West, but with curtsies in the direction
of Russia" -- in part to secure budgetary assistance from both
sides. General Director of the Center for Political Technologies
Igor Bunin predicts renewed bargaining with Russia over gas prices,
but agreed with Sergei Strokan's Kommersant op-ed that Yanukovych's
"gas blackmail" will be less dramatic than Belarus'. Deputy General
Director of the Center for Political Technologies Boris Makarenko
suggested that Russia could strengthen its relations with Ukraine by
deepening its own cooperation with the EU.

8. (SBU) In contrast, Leonid Slutsky, First Deputy Chairman of the
Committee on International Affairs of the Duma, went as far as to

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suggest that Yanukovych might seek the "integration" of the Ukraine
with Russia.


9. (SBU) Kosachev said that Tymoshenko's unwillingness to concede
was a test of her commitment to democracy. He accused her, like
President Yushchenko, of acting in the interest of her party and not
Ukraine's national interest. Many Russian experts agree that
Tymoshenko used her administrative resources in Western Ukraine to
inflate her vote. Duma Deputy Sergey Markov, who was a member of
the State Duma delegation of election observers, suggested 2.5
percent of ballots in Tymoshenko's favor were fraudulent. Igor
Bunin believed her campaign was too aggressive, and focused on ideas
only popular in Western Ukraine. Examples are the glorification of
Stepan Bandera and other nationalist movements. Although Lukyanov
said Tymoshenko has passed the peak of her political career due to
excessive political maneuvering, she remains a force to be reckoned
with. Boris Nemtsov of the Solidarity opposition movement suggested
Yanukovych would face a powerful opposition in the person of
Tymoshenko, saying Tymoshenko is more at home in opposition than in
the Cabinet of Ministers.


© Scoop Media

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