Friday, March 24, 2006

U.S. Advisor

RFE/RL's Daisy Sindelar, commenting on the run-up to this weekend's Ukraine elections:
As for Moscow and Washington, [Vladimir] Zharikhin says the countries should strive to tread lightly in Ukraine, which he says is destabilized by its traditional philosophical east-west schism.

"In Ukraine there's truly an enormous contradiction between the global views in western and eastern Ukraine," he notes. "And if you adopt the policies of those who are profoundly Western-oriented or -- on the other hand -- profoundly Eastern-oriented, then the splitting up of the country is inevitable. We would simply pull it into pieces. We need to proceed on the notion that that's how Ukraine is."

Yanukovych, in the end, may have the best sense of how to manage the east-west divide. He has crossed the breach in recent days, making a strategic campaign stop in the western city of Chernoitsi, which in 2004 gave Yushchenko 80 percent of its votes. He switched easily between Ukrainian and Russian, and reportedly drew a crowd of some 10,000 people with promises to use his Kremlin connections to keep gas prices down.

Who was behind such a savvy campaign move? Not Yanukovych's Russian election advisers. The Party of Regions leader has replaced them -- with a team assembled by a campaign expert, Paul Manafort, from the U.S. Republican Party.
Elsewhere on RFE/RL, Victor Yasmann analyses Moscow's silence on the Ukraine elections - a contrast with Moscow's noisy advocacy of Yanukovych in 2004.
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