Rep. Bob Schaffer talks to NRO about the Ukrainian situation on the ground
Here's a wonderful excerpt from a Q & A on NRO with Rep. Bob Schaffer, former congressman from Colorado, about his recent experience as an election observer in the recent disputed elections. Recently returned from Ukraine, Schaffer, whose mother is Ukrainian, and who works with the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus, shared his impressions of the situation as a whole and also his impressions of the nature of the demonstrations:
"NRO: What most impressed you about the protesters?
SCHAFFER: One cannot help being impressed by the protesters. They have begun each day of the protest in Kiev in prayer and all activities are accomplished with a collective sense of respect, kindness, and an intention to conduct a peaceful revolution. The demonstrators have refrained from taunting or challenging armed police or the military. In fact, the objective of the demonstrators is to win the affection of the armed agents of the government. This is being accomplished with remarkable frequency. In fact, most of the Kiev police have now pledged their support for the people and even have expressed their intentions to protect the people from any possible conflict with military (including Russian) personnel. Kievians are opening up their small apartments and homes to out-of-town protesters. I met a guy who told me he was hosting seven strangers in his two-bedroom apartment. The demonstration is very well organized. There is a clear understanding among the crowds that they are unarmed, yet they are prepared to do whatever it takes to remain in the streets even die as martyrs in the democracy movement if need be. Finally, the media has dramatically understated the magnitude of the demonstration as in the "tens of thousands." In the late afternoons and early evenings, the crowd is easily over one million. That many people simply can't fit in Independence Square. At its peak, the demonstration spills in to the streets for several blocks in all directions.
NRO: What most scared you about the situation there?
SCHAFFER: There is a very large military presence in and around Kiev. Tanks and artillery were being offloaded from railcars as early as last Monday (11/22). Though there is growing division among the Ukrainian military ranks as to loyalty in this revolution the possibility of violence looms over the entire situation.
NRO: Do Ukrainians commonly believe that Yushchenko was poisoned by�Yanukovich/Russia?
SCHAFFER: Few people doubt Yushchenko was poisoned. Ukraine is a rough place for anyone who challenges the governing authorities. The recent history of Ukraine is replete with dead journalists, beaten journalists, news agencies being shut down, and politicians being injured or killed. Most are killed in mysterious auto accidents. Ukrainian Journalist Heorhiy Gongadze's headless corpse was found partially buried on the outskirts of town and was the most noted journalist murder. His body had been dipped in acid to remove evidence and hasten decomposition. Yushchenko's popularity among the people is a clear threat to the government. Most Ukrainians expect assassination attempts. I've known Yushchenko for many years and could barely recognize him when I saw him this time. Not until he spoke and I recognized his voice did I believe I was looking at the same man his face being so disfigured by the poisoning. No common virus could have done such a thing. In fact, his medical analysis indicates he had been simultaneously exposed to as many as five unlikely viruses. Who would have done this? While several parties have clear motivation it will likely never be proven who the culprit is.
Read the whole interview at: