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The author is the longest serving foreign correspondent covering Russia. He published his fascinating memoirs in December of 2018. They are full of insights into what has really been going on in Moscow over the past 30 years. RI wrote about it here. He is the author of 12 books, 3 of them about Russia.


The US State Department, the Republican Party Institute and Igor Kolomoisky can’t all be wrong about what the overwhelming majority of Ukrainian voters is thinking – that there is a civil war in the Ukraine which cannot be won by US arms,  money, and putsches in Kiev.

The question to be decided on polling day, July 21, for the new Verkhovna Rada (parliament) is:   which side in the war, the eastern Ukraine including Odessa, or the Galicians around Lviv in the west,  will win power?

The answer already appeared in a May poll by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and in the most recent June and July voter surveys by the local Ukrainian pollster Rating. A coalition of parties whose support is strongest in eastern Ukraine will control parliament and will back the new President, Volodymyr Zelensky (lead image, left), to negotiate terms with the breakaway governments of Donetsk and Lugansk (collectively, the Donbass), and with Moscow. On these polls, the Galician parties of western Ukraine will have no national party representation in parliament, no ministers nor high-ranking officials, and just a handful of constituency seats in Lviv, Brody and Ternopil.

Last week, the Galicians held their election rally in Toronto, where their faction is headed  by Chrystia Freeland (lead image, right), Canada’s foreign minister, with financing from the State Department through USAID, and from Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian steel oligarch, supported by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, a lobby group representing west Ukrainian refugees from the German Army’s defeat in 1945. Freeland, a Galician by origin, and Kurt Volker, a German by origin and the State Department’s Special Representative for Ukraine, gave the proceedings, entitled the Ukraine Reform Conference, an official government appearance.  So did appearances and speeches by President Zelensky and a handful of Baltic state politicians.

But Toronto votes don’t count. If the domestic Ukrainian vote follows the current Ukrainian and US  polls, then Freeland’s Galicians will be forced to retreat,  just as her grandfather Michael Chomiak fled with the German Army as it was driven out of Ukraine and Poland by the Red Army. Chomiak ended up in Alberta, Canada. Freeland too.   After July 21, the last retreat for the Galicians is Canada.

“Democracy is alive and kicking in Ukraine”, tweeted Freeland’s ministry at the start of  the Ukraine Reform Conference between July 2 and 4. According to conference publications, its expenses were paid by USAID’s Ukraine Invest Fund0; by Ukraine House Toronto, which is paid for the Canadian, US and European Union governments;  and by Pinchuk,  who is the long-time financier of the Clinton Foundation and US think-tanks supporting the putsch of February 2014,  including Brookings and the Atlantic Council.


Partners identified for the programme of the Ukraine Reform Conference identified by Ukraine House Toronto:  https://events.myconferencesuite.com/Ukraine Invest is a holding into which USAID has been pumping money through an entity called Western NIS Enterprise Fund (WNISEF) and a fund called Horizon Capital. These employed Natalie Jaresko, the American appointed by President Petro Poroshenko as the Ukrainian finance minister in December 2014. Jaresko and her American and Canadian associates have enriched themselves in these investment promotion schemes; for the details, click to read.

In a speech to the Toronto audience, Freeland declared: “Canada stands right next to the Ukrainian people and supports all the efforts they are investing to ensure they have a sovereign, secure future.”   “This conference gives us a unique opportunity to once again support Ukraine’s reforms and Ukraine’s path to European integration. Ukrainians have shown full devotion to sovereignty, democracy and reforms

The polls show the kicking Ukrainian democracy is about to display is aimed at the US and Canadian intervention which started the civil war in 2014. Exactly what is meant by civil war was spelled out by Igor Kolomoisky, the steel and banking oligarch who backed Zelensky’s presidential run and  is now financing the election campaign of Zelensky’s party Sluha Narodu (“Servant of the People”).  It is now the runaway front-runner.

In May Kolomoisky gave the Ukrainian site Bihus.info an interview in which he called the conflict in the east a civil war. Coming from a figure who was outspoken in his anti-Russian sentiment at the start of the war, who financed several units of irregulars to fight in the Donbass,  and who was Poroshenko’s governor of Dniepropetrovsk from March 2014 to March 2015, Kolomoisky’s acknowledgement was extraordinary.  Just as extraordinary, Kolomoisky dismissed the Maidan events in Kiev which started the war against Russia.

The interview video clip in Ukrainian has been viewed more than 1.5 million times.


Source: https://www.youtube.com/Ukrainian transcripts in English spell the regional combination of Lugansk and Donetsk, currently separate but allied breakaway governments, as the Donbas (Донба́с in Ukrainian). The standard English spelling is from the Russian Donbass (Донба́сс).

“Maidan was no good, a revolution is always no good,” Kolomoisky declared.  “Because [it is] eventually minus 13 million people, minus Crimea, minus Donbas. [Ex-president of Ukraine Viktor] Yanukovych, Russia and the revolution are of course [to blame]. Mutual hatred, internal civil conflict, internal civil war. Thank God it has not spread to the whole territory, but it has a hot phase in Donbas and a cold phase in the rest of the country.”

“Civil war [is when] Ukrainians [are] against Ukrainians, Russia supports one side of the Ukrainians. If it hadn’t, it would have ended a long time ago. The Ukrainians would have made it up with each other. [But] it was Russia that instigated and masterminded the conflict. [This is the case] on the one hand, but on the other hand, not everything was all right either,” he added.

There has been no direct response by either Freeland or Volker to Kolomoisky’s declaration. Instead, they have attempted to drive a wedge between Kolomoisky and Zelensky, threatening US Government action against Kolomoisky which was not contemplated until Zelensky took power in Kiev in April. “I know that Zelensky came to the post on a powerful anti-corruption platform,” Senator Robert Menendez toldVolker told at a Foreign Relations Committee hearing on June 18.  Menendez added: “But there are warnings concerning his ties to certain Ukrainian oligarchs… in particular Ihor Kolomoyskyi, who is suspected of embezzling funds from the bank he was a co-owner of.”

Volker answered: “We think that he [Zelenksy] deserves a chance. We support the principles of reform, the overcoming of the domination of oligarchs, such as Kolomoyskyi, in the political system. We hope that he will be able to be independent and to deliver on his promises.”  Then came Volker’s threat: “We intend both to assist him [Zelensky] and to hold him accountable if this doesn’t happen.”  For “principles of reform” in Volker’s language, read Zelensky must follow US orders.

Volker repeated the warning to Zelensky at the Toronto conference last week. “Investors do not have that confidence right now.  Some terrible things are holding the Ukrainian economy back because it keeps foreign investment away.”  “That being said, the United States is confident that Zelenskiy is up to the task of speeding up reform in Ukraine.”

In Toronto, Volker’s tweets were explicit – there is no civil war in the east of Ukraine; there is a Russian invasion and occupation:

For details of the pressure the US is attempting to impose on Kolomoisky, read this.


Ukrainian oligarchs and the four leading parties in the election,  left to right: Igor Kolomoisky backing Zelensky’s party, Sluha Narodu; Victor Pinchuk backing European Solidarity (BPP Solidarnist, Petro Poroshenko  ); Serhiy Taruta (Batkivshchyna);  and Dmitry Firtash (Opposition Platform, Yury Boiko and Alexander Vilkul).  Not pictured in this lineup is Rinat Akhmetov whose money is reportedly going to  the Radical Party of Oleg Liashko and the Opposition Platform. For more on who is behind and paying for whom, read this.

With just two weeks to go, Ukrainian voters say their choice will be Zelensky’s Sluha Narodu by a large margin from the Opposition Platform (Yury Boiko and Vadim Rabinovych); BPP Solidarnist (“European Solidarity”, Poroshenko); and Batkivshchyna (“Fatherland”, the party of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko).

The Svoboda (“Freedom”) party is the extreme right organization representing the Galicians; it is polling just 3% countrywide, too little to reach the threshold for seats in the proportional party-list contest.

This is how the latest survey by the International Republican Institute (IRI) of Washington reports the party preferences for voters who told pollsters they were likely to vote.


Source: https://www.iri.org/ – page 30.

When voter choice is compared for the top four parties polling above the representational threshold, the IRI survey confirms the split between the eastern and southern (Odessa) voters and those in the west of the country.  Svoboda, by contrast, is down to 1% in the East; 4% in the West.


Source: https://www.iri.org/ – page 31.

The IRI says its Ukrainian voter survey was carried out by the Rating Sociological Group of Kiev between May 10 and 21. The questions were designed by the US Government and paid for by USAID in partnership with IRI, which is also financed by the State Department.  The nationwide voter sample was 2,400. They were contacted for face-to-face interviews at respondents’ homes. More than a third of those contacted refused to open their door or let the interviewers in. Just 64.2% gave answers. The missing third in the poll is likely to be concealing their support for Svoboda in the west, Sluha Narodu in the east.


IRI’s partnership disclosure: : https://www.iri.org/

Ukrainian polls make the civil war split even clearer. Here, for example, are the party preference results for a Rating group survey which was conducted  between May 29 and June 3.

Rating’s next survey, gathered between June 6 and 9 and reported on June 12,  showed that the momentum was going Zelensky’s (and Kolomoisky’s) way. Sluha Narodnu had increased its lead to 47.5%; Opposition Platform to 10.4%; Poroshenko’s party to 7.9%; and Holos, a creation of a pop singer, Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, running on an anti-corruption,  against-them-all platform, was at 6.5%.  Tymoshenko and Taruta  were  losing national support, just as they had during the presidential campaign.

Rating’s latest survey of voters was taken between June 29 and July 3.   It shows Sluha Narodu dropping back to 42.3%, though Zelensky’s party remains well ahead of all of  its rivals. Opposition Platform continues to gain at 13.4%, while Poroshenko is stuck at about 8%. Holos is also gaining to 7.2%, though its momentum has slowed. Tymoshenko and Taruta are managing to pull their votes above the election threshold to 7. 2%.  Svoboda is down, nationally, to 2.3%.   Zelensky and his campaign managers have said publicly they will be able to command a majority of the new parliament, if not outright then in coalition with Opposition Platform and Holos.

There is a noticeable difference between the US Government polling, which was planned in March and April,  and the June-July  polling by the Rating group. This is the rise of Holos (“Voice”) led by Vakarchuk. His pitch to young Ukrainian voters is taking a leaf out of the Kolomoisky-Zelensky playbook during the presidential campaign. Vakarchuk is also the favourite of the US media and of the pro-American Ukrainian media.

If Volker and Freeland have been encouraging Vakarchuk to run against Zelensky, their move was a late one, after the IRI poll revealed how strongly Zelensky’s party was polling. IRI did not include Vakarchuk or Holos in its questionnaires.  Voter support of individual politicians is also clearly divided between the east and west of the country, with Kolomoisky retaining sizeable voter support himself in the south (Odessa).

It is evident that the split between young and old voters, on which Vakarchuk has been hoping to capitalize, is much less influential than the east-west split.


Source: https://www.iri.org/ – page 63.

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The IRI poll also made clear what the dominant issue is for voters across the country — more than two-thirds want to end the civil war.


Source:  https://www.iri.org/-- page 33.

The message from Ukrainian democracy, “alive and kicking” according to Freeland in Toronto, is that ending the civil war is far more important to most Ukrainians right now than ending the oligarchs’ role in Ukrainian politics – on condition the oligarchs also back an end to the war.  If the pre-election poll results materialize on July 21, there will be minimal support in the new Verkhovna Rada for the US-Canadian war. That is, unless Freeland and Volker can rig the vote on July 21; intimidate Zelensky; and remove Kolomoisky.