Ukraine Elections: Voters Continue to Turn West

Ukraine elections
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko spent election day with troops in the East.

From the Guardian Liberty Voice:

Ukrainian voters continue to look west, choosing to elect a new parliament that gives President Petro Poroshenko the opportunity to form a government committed to continuing the process of looking westward, as much of the country seeks to adopt European standards and values. Exit polling on Sunday indicated that Poroshenko will be shed of the former Party of Regions dominated parliament of ousted ex-president Viktor Yanukovich.

Ukrainian voters also rejected the idea of a majority of hard-line nationalist leaders, preferring instead to allow those minorities to have a place in parliament, ut without control. Polling data indicates that the People’s Front party of Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, a Poroshenko ally, also did well in the voting. Ukraine’s parliament is called the Verkhovna Rada, or Rada for short, a single-house legislative body with 450 seats.

Most of the three million residents living in the contested Eastern republics claimed by pro-Russian rebels were not allowed the opportunity to vote.

Read the entire article here.

As preliminary numbers began to emerge, President Poroshenko made a statement thanking Ukrainians for participating in the election, saying that he had asked citizens to vote for a democratic, pro-Ukrainian, reform-minded and pro-European majority. He thanked voters for hearing him and supporting his call.

Poroshenko had flown by helicopter to the town of Kramatorsk, a city recently liberated from pro-Russian rebels. He inspected two polling stations after first visiting fortified installations where members of the Ukrainian army are still fighting to liberate Ukrainian citizens in the area.

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First snow of 2014 – Первый снег

first snow a In some Russian traditions, the first snow is delivered by angels; special angels sprinkle the first snow over a town or area. So, it was a pleasant exchange yesterday when a reader sent along a “first snow” greeting from Saint Petersburg.

To outsiders it may be difficult to understand why Russians welcome the beginning of winter weather. Oh, to be sure, we lament the ending of pleasant summer weather and the activities that we can enjoy in summer. But, the first signs of winter remind us that before too long the New Year will arrive. The New Year celebration is our favourite holiday.

Then today another reader, this one from Kirov, announced their first snow. A few hours later a reader from Nizhniy Novgorod informed us of snow there. Just before our publishing deadline we received reports of snow in Murmansk, Yaroslavl, and Astana. Astana is the capital of Kazakhstan. So, with this many reports of Первый снег, could this be the start of a trend?

For readers who study Russian language, this is a good time to acquaint you with some key Russian winter phrases:

Русская зима = “Russian winter” and sounds like Rus-skaya zi-MAh.

Первый снег = “First snow” and this sounds like pyer-viy synek.

Another favourite tradition is to thoroughly clean house rugs with the first good coat of snow. A common practice is to gather up those small rugs from inside an apartment, and take them outside to be cleaned in the snow. Some housewives hang their rugs out to catch the snow, but more often you can see rugs being laid  face down on the show, and then a good “beating” with a broom is administered. While this may seem superstitious to some, the snow that was under the rugs does get quite dirty in the process–so perhaps there is some logic to the practice.

With that, we will join the refrain and wish you С первым снегом (with the first snow!).

 первым снегом = "first snow."
первым снегом = “first snow.”

 

 

Photo: Olga Strakhova in Nizhniy Novgorod.
Photo: Olga Strakhova reported the first snow in Nizhniy Novgorod.

 

Are Sanctions Against Russia Working?

Putin

A common question is whether the sanctions against Russia are working. So, are they? In a word, yes. During a Moscow investment conference in Moscow on Thursday, Russian president Vladimir Putin told attendees “…conditions have become more complicated, but, as I have already said, this stimulates us to concentrate our resources and choose the best solutions, to achieve our goals in the shortest possible time and to work more efficiently in all areas.”

When Mr. Putin says that conditions are more complicated, even he is admitting that sanctions are having an impact. As to inflation, at least in part caused by retaliatory sanctions that Russia has levied against the West, Putin tried to deflect the issue by saying that inflation was really only in the food sectors and therefore very limited. His own admission on inflation however, is revealing: “…by the end of the year it will be around 7.5-7.6, about 8 percent, which is higher than last year (it was 6.5 percent in 2013).”

Certainly one can read forums and articles in which so-called experts claim that Russia will be just fine, and that the West will be the real loser at the end of the day. Wrong. Fools are born every minute, and some have the titles or positions of experts, but that does not change their foolishness. Most of those “experts” have spent little time in Russia.

When one looks at the issue of agriculture and food, in some sectors Russian dacha owners still give professional farms a run for their money. In the month after many European and North American food products were banned, the average Russian shrugged it as if they could survive without those things. They can of course, but over time we are sensing that they do not want to do without certain things in life.

But it is not just food that has been impacted, as rising monetary inflation is felt by every Russian, but as of yet has been left largely unspoken. The loss of purchasing power is having an impact as the government has made a conscious decision to use its only real assets against Europe: oil and gas. The Ruble has fallen over 20 percent this year against the dollar. That impacts every aspect of life from a trip to the market, to a trip overseas. Inflation or currency devaluation have the same net result–chipping away at the purchasing power for consumers.

Putin

The Russian government claims that sanctions will drive the economy to become more independent. Self reliance from the West was the same sad song during the Soviet period, and that didn’t work out too well then, either. The definition of insanity remains the same–the idea of doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result. Russia could well develop a more robust agrarian economic sector, but Russia must fundamentally change in order for a truly grassroots economic base to develop and mature.

It was the American founding father Thomas Jefferson who said that farmers are “the most valuable citizens.” Jefferson understood that hard work, unconstrained by a suffocating government, was the best way to build a self-reliant and sustainable local economy. It is a lesson that our Russian friends have yet to learn.

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