First, on Monday the two Ukrainian presidential rivals faced-off in a televised debate.
The two rivals stood at lecterns facing each other in a blue television studio, with an electronic clock behind a moderator. A small table was between them, with a desktop flag of Ukraine sitting on it.
Yushchenko, wearing a tie and a handkerchief in his campaign color of orange, spoke first. He said the reason for the Dec. 26 election rerun “was that the results of the Nov. 21 votes were stolen … by my opponent and his team.”
Yanukovych, wearing a tie in his trademark blue, spoke in Russian instead of Ukrainian in his introductory remarks.
“Your accusations toward me and toward my voters don’t give us the chance to look into the future optimistically,” he said, wagging his finger at Yushchenko.
Yanukovych suggested that a Yushchenko victory would further divide the nation.
I find it intriguing that Yanukovych would suggest that a victory by Yushchenko in this weekend’s election would divide the nation since it isn’t Yanukovych’s offices that are the targets of violence.
Late Sunday, assailants hurled a firebomb at Yushchenko’s campaign office in the city of Mariupil in the Donetsk region, a statement posted on his party Web site said. There were no injuries, but the office was seriously damaged in an ensuing fire.
But I suppose this is similar to the “staged” violence Republicans perpetrated against Bush-Cheney offices here in the U.S. this past election season. Just trying to gain some sympathy. Well, it worked on me!
Next up, Vladimir Putin seems to have seen the writing on the wall. He now believes he can work with a Yushchenko administration in Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who openly backed Viktor Yushchenko’s rival for president of the Ukraine, said Tuesday he could work with an administration headed by the pro-Western candidate.
“We have worked with him already and the cooperation was not bad,” Putin said during a visit to Germany. “If he wins, I don’t see any problems.”
Apparently, this news has not given Yushchenko any warm and fuzzy feelings. Wednesday evening he warned his supporters to expect violence in connection with the election on Sunday.
He told the thousands gathered in the square to mark the one-month anniversary since protests against election fraud began that they had changed Ukraine without bloodshed.
But he warned: “There are some forces preparing disruption and they are preparing brigades, groups which are ready to come to Kiev.”
UPDATE: More on election violence concerns:
In Kiev, rumors are swirling that Cossacks and miners from mainly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine are readying to disrupt Sunday’s vote or head to Kiev in case of a Yushchenko victory.
Campaign officials for Yanukovych, who draws most of his support from eastern Ukraine, have repeatedly denied the allegations. Law enforcement officials have said they would maintain law and order during the rerun.