Rent-a-Revolution: hired yokels swarm Ukrainian capital in support of Yanukovych
Ukraine’s president-elect Viktor Yanukovych rallied the bumpkin hordes on Wednesday to forestall any possible counter-attack from his defeated rival, Yulya Tymoshenko, who remains in hiding. A police spokesman in the capital, Kiev, said 83 buses had arrived from the pro-Russian heartland in eastern Ukraine. They carried 4,000 of Yanukovych’s supporters, who were deployed at strategic points throughout the city with amazing efficiency — the parliament building, the presidential residence, and now most importantly, around the country’s highest courts, Yulya’s last hope of overturning the election. This is a huge, pre-emptive counter-demonstration for hire, a thing I’ve never seen or heard of.
In exchange for waving flags, chanting slogans and standing around in the cold, these people were being paid about 200 hryvnia a day, which comes to about $25. Not bad at all for folks from eastern regions like Donetsk and Lugansk, where unemployment and rampant poverty translate into a general willingness to come out in support of a mountain yeti if the beast could pay a few dollars a day. In addition, these folks are being housed in trailers and barracks on the outskirts of Kiev, which means they get a few days to hang around the capital, a rare treat.
I couldn’t believe my eyes as I pulled up to the square outside the Central Election Commission today. The crowd was spilling out into the streets. It was impassable, almost shoulder to shoulder near the stage that was erected there last week. But it wasn’t exactly a spirited demonstration. Toward the back people stood around in loose but organized columns, six people wide, about twenty-five long, with a flag-man in the front, usually bearing the name of the town or village they had come from. A few official-looking goons were handing around shots of vodka in plastic cups and hard-boiled eggs with which to chase it. The people looked tired. Many had been standing around there since Friday.
The king of the yokels himself, Yanukovych, a former electrician from the town of Yenakiieve in eastern Ukraine, meanwhile issued a video statement to the press. It was so wooden I have begun to believe the man is a Russian-designed cyborg with a diesel tank for lungs. The highlights were him calling for Yulya to resign immediately, and saying his first priority will be to improve ties with Russia. Not much of a surprise on either score.
Oh, and here’s a video I thought was funny. Yanukovych offering sunflower seeds to Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev at a rally a few years ago. Watch Putin grind his teeth at the unbridled idiocy of it all.