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An unusual course of events

October 25, 2014

One of the few benefits of spending 10 minutes a day, most days over the past few years, churning out less than erudite rumination more often than not, is that when Ukraine and/or Odessa are for some reason internationally interesting, approaches are made by journalists wanting either an interview (most requests refused), or a “fixer” to facilitate interviews, or meeting requests are made by NGOs, academics, think-tankers, observers of various sorts, the occasional wandering politician, and  flocks of passing diplomats for (mostly) off the record chats.

All interesting people, or people doing interesting things – sometimes both.

Notwithstanding that, the blog is read by many embassies in Kyiv – particularly those without consulates or honourary consuls in Odessa.  Indeed some blog entries are quite deliberately written for that audience – despite the usually corresponding drop in reader figures on such occasions.

This is one of those entries that will be read, and is intended to be read, by those in Kyiv, and those with whom this blog meets later today, and yet others tomorrow.

Over the past few weeks several diplomats based in Kyiv known fairly well to this blog, and from several different embassies, have been in contact asking specifically about campaign intimidation and/or violence in Odessa relating to the elections on Sunday.

Aside from the much reported incident relating to Nestor Shufrych and the “Opposition Block”, and an explosive devise putting breaking the windows at a small Batkivshchyna office, there have been a few minor incidents with regard the single mandate (first past the post) campaigns.  A candidate from Arseniy Yatseiuk’s People’s Front was threatened some time ago.  A man employed by a candidate, Mr Golubov, was assaulted putting up posters by men associated with another candidate, Sergei Strashnyi.  Mr Kivalov has on-hired some goons to intimidate others – primarily, it appears, the people of Mr Rondin who is perhaps his main competitor.  This is sadly nothing unusual from previous election years in Odessa, particularly so when it comes to those competing for single mandate seats.  The single mandate seats are historically far more dirty in their campaign tactics than the tactics of the proportional representation party vote.

As such, nothing unusual  is occurring regarding the form of intimidation or violent incidents according to information known personally to, or received from reliable sources across all party lines and within numerous candidate camps.  Neither are the number of these incidents any higher than previously associated with elections in Odessa.

Currently there are at least 15 cases (and rising) of electoral infringements under investigation in Odessa – the majority however, relate to voter bribery, and then misuse of administrative resources, rather than intimidation or violence.

However, there appears to be something of an upturn in allegations/notifications/complaints of violent or intimidation incidents being made to the international diplomatic community from people closely associated to – but not necessarily  by – certain candidates.

And so the question arises, why are the number of allegations of violence and/or intimidation undergoing official investigation in Odessa, significantly less than the number of reported incidents to several embassies in Kyiv – to the point those embassies have been in contact to put these claims into perspective via a local (and hopefully trusted) sources?

What is to be gained by a significant amount of such claims/reports being made to several diplomatic centres in Kyiv, that fail to correspond to official complaints with the domestic investigative authorities, or are known to the local media (whether the story was run or not)?

Such claims are surely going to be checked by even the most junior of diplomats – and junior diplomats don’t get out of their Kyiv offices and down to see the likes of this blog on the coin of their State.  Senior diplomats that do get out of their offices are even less likely to accept the unusual and unexpected without sufficient investigation to ease their minds by way of corroboration.

In short, a very unusual course of events for elections in Odessa is/has occurred – and a course of events for which, as yet, the reasons have thus far not become apparent.

The point of making so many spurious/uncorroborated and domestically unofficial claims?

 

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