Ukraine Liveblog Day 252: Ukraine Begins To Form A New Coalition Government

October 27, 2014
Ballots being counted. Photo: UNIAN

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. An archive of our liveblogs can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

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For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.

For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: Evidence Review: Who Shot Down MH17?

Below we will be making regular updates so check back often.

Ukraine’s Discredited Party of Regions is Back in Part — Via the New Opposition Bloc

Ian Bateson of the Kyiv Post reports how Yury Boyko’s Opposition Bloc has outperformed the forecasts and is now expected to be the fourth largest party in the new Ukrainian parliament.

“We are the voice of eastern Ukraine, the industrial party of the country and of the real economy,”  Yuiry Boyko told the Kyiv Post on Oct. 27.

Yet this voice, while certainly deserving of representation in the legislature in its own right, is precisely the way in which the old discredited Party of Regions is coming in through the back door.

“It is an excellent result,” said Mykhaylo Dobkin former governor of Kharkiv Oblast and number three on the party list. “But we were expecting 20 percent.”

Dobson reportedly absented himself to Russia after deposed president Viktor Yanukovych fled to Moscow in February, but returned to Kharkiv attend a pro-Russian rally. He was then dismissed and later arrested for “leading a separatist movement,” but ultimately the charges were dismissed and he was released. He ran in the presidential election, but received only 3.03% of the vote.

While in the parliament formed after the 2002 elections, Dobkin was first with for United Ukraine, then the Social Democratcy Party of Ukraine (united), the party of which he was a member, then in the Party of Regions faction. He then became a member of the political council of the Party of Regions.

Now he is back in the incarnation of the Opposition Bloc.

Originally the Opposition Bloc was not expected to clear the 5% threshold, but as counting is past 75% of returns, the party has 9.63% of results currently. That means at least 30 seats, and as Boyko told Kyiv Post, another 30 seats of independents running in majoritarian districts could be added to the Opposition Bloc in the parliament.

The Opposition Bloc also represents the part of the Donbass that voted:

Translation: How the Donbass voted.

On this exit poll done by Savik Shuster Studio, there are the following results on October 26:

Opposition Bloc 33.30%
Petro Poroshenko Bloc 19.20%
Communist Party 10.00%
Popular Front 6.90%
Samopomich 6.60%

As Ekho Moskvy’s editor-in-chief Alexey Venediktov wrote on October 26:

Translation: The coalition of Poroshenko + Yatsenyuk taking into account the single-mandate districts will not reach the constitutional majority of 300 mandates. A third partner is needed.

Will that third coalition partner be Samopomich or Opposition Bloc?

President Poroshenko wrote on his own Twitter feed in English his sense that the Communist Party and the Party of Regions were now history in Ukraine:

But while the Communists may be missing, the Party of Regions figures like Dobkin and other “Regionaires” are back, via the Opposition Bloc.

And that means in part the interests of the “Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.” The “elections-as-lustration” concept did not fully work.

Popular Front Edges Ahead of Poroshenko Bloc, Svoboda Out in Ukraine’s Parliamentary Elections

With 75.13% of the votes counted as of 21:15 local time in Kiev, Unian is reporting that the gap between Yatsenyuk and Poroshenko is growing slightly and the Popular Front is edging out ahead:

Popular Front 21.93%
Petro Poroshenko Bloc 21.5%
Samopomich 11.1%
Opposition Bloc 9.63%
Radical Party 7.39%
Batkivshchyna 5.67%

Svoboda is now showing that it has not cleared the 5% threshold to go into the parliament, with only 4.73%.

Ukrainska Pravda is also updating the results and has a visible infographic currently showing the count at 75.09% complete.

This graphic shows the number of seats each can claim:


Poroshenko Bloc 126
Popular Front 82
Samopomich 33
Opposition Bloc 30
Radical Party 22
Batkivshchyna 19

Thus, 110 seats are still to be determined.

The party leaders are from left to right Petro Poroshenko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Andriy Sadoviy, Yuriy Boyko, Oleh Lyashko, Yulia Timoshenko

Russian Military On The Move On The Ukrainian Side Of The Donetsk Border
Here is an alarming report from Mashable’s Christopher Miller:

Miller is a trusted journalist, so we’re looking for more videos which would perhaps give us a sense of how widespread any similar movement may be.

This video was uploaded today. It says it shows Russian vehicles moving toward Crimea. We can’t verify the video, and we have not been able to geolocate the video either, but we have not been able to find another example of this video uploaded previously to today:

Ukraine Says Election Was Successful, ‘Terrorism’ Has Decreased Since Last Week
At this morning’s briefing by the National Security and Defense Council, the elections were a major theme. Despite some security issues, and the continued attacks by “terrorists,” AKA Russian-backed insurgents, the NSDC says that the elections were secure and effective, and the amount of violence over the last week has decreased.
It’s also important to note that in areas on Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts where the Ukrainian government is in control, elections did take place, though turnout was much lower, largely due to the fact that large parts of these regions could not vote at all. Ukrainian soldiers and national guard troops also voted in the elections.
69.25% Of Votes Counted, With Top Six Parties Maintaining Rank

This tweet gives the latest breakdown of votes counted so far by the Ukrainian Central Election Commission (CEC), as of 18:52 (16:52 GMT).

The top results are as follows:

21.78% – Popular Front

21.44% – Bloc Petro Poroshenko

11.09 – Samopomich

9.79 – Opposition Bloc

7.39 – Radical Party

5.66 – Batkivshchyna

4.71 – Svoboda

3.94 – Communist Party of Ukraine

Dmytro Yarosh’s Praviy Sektor lie well outside the 5% vote share required to enter parliament. Their share of the vote is not visible at the bottom of this screen, but must be below 2.74%.

Ukrainian Pilot Savchenko Loses Appeal, Pre-Trial Detention Extended 3 Months; Expects Seat in Ukrainian Parliament

Nadezhda Savchenko, the Ukrainian pilot held at the Serbsky Institute for Forensic Psychiatry, lost her appeal today October 27 in Moscow’s Basmanny Court to release her from pre-trial detention, reported.

Judge Valentina Levashova ruled today in a close session that Savchenko’s confinement should continue another three months until February 13. The charges against her of involvement in the murder of Russian state journalists in Lugansk are widely acknowledged as fabricated as part of Moscow’s war against Ukraine.

Despite the petition of Savchenko’s attorney, Ilya Novikov, to open the session to the press and public, the judge ruled that certain testimony was classified and the hearing had to be closed.

Savchenko has refused to cooperate with psychiatric testing at the Serbsky Institute, or to provide testimony in court. Her lawyer believed nevertheless that she should have been present at the court session, but his request was denied.

OMON riot police arrived at the court house expecting mass protesters, as there were at Savchenko’s previous hearing, but there were none.

Mark Feygin, another attorney defending Savchenko, is hoping that Savchenko’s election to the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament on the ticket of Batkivshchyna, Julia Timoshenko’s party, would grant her immunity from prosecution.

With approximately 50% of the ballots counted, Batkivshchyna appears to have just made it over the threshold for entry to the Rada at 5.6%. Yulia Timoshenko, former prime minister and head of Batkivshchyna said yesterday at a news briefing in Kiev that Savchenko was placed first on her party’s list (translation by The Interpreter):

“I believe that Nadezhda Savchenko, who will become a deputy of Ukraine, and will immediately, practically in the shortest time, will receive the status of deputy of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and will obtain sufficiently weighty diplomatic status which will enable us, the PACE, to insist on her release. I believe that Nadezhda Savchenko will work with our faction in the parliament.”

Feigin told he was collecting the necessary documentation now to register her as a deputy of the Rada.

Meanwhile, the case drags on in Russia, says Novikov (translation by The Interpreter):

“In our view, the investigation understands that it has arrested the wrong person. Therefore it is creating the imitation of vigorous investigation of the case. So back in July, it was announced to everyone that the guilt of my client was proven by the detailing of her telephone conversation. But only last week did I sign a statement about the attachment of that evidence to the materials of the case. That says a lot. The case is sluggish, the investigation has few clues.”

2 Ukrainian Servicemen Killed In Last 24 Hours

Ukrainska Pravda reports that Andrei Lysenko, the spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council, has told reporters at a briefing today that 2 Ukrainian servicemen have been killed in the last 24 hours.

Lysenko said (translated by The Interpreter):

During the last 24 hours, 2 of our soldiers were killed in their BTR while carrying out an operation to break a blockade on checkpoint 32. We have not received data on wounded today.”

Checkpoint 32, Lysenko said, was close to the town of Smile in the Lugansk region. Since October 15, over 100 Ukrainian soldiers have been pinned down in the area after being attacked by fighters claiming allegiance to the ‘Army of the Don Cossacks.” 

On October 26, President Poroshenko tweeted that Ukrainian forces succeeded in bringing food and water to the checkpoint. 

At the same time as Sunday’s attempt to relieve the checkpoint, a Ukrainian mine-clearing vehicle was destroyed by a landmine near Smile. According to the ATO press centre, no one was injured in the incident. 

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister – ‘Clear That The Election Is Valid’

Interfax-Ukraine reports that the Russian deputy foreign minister, Grigory Karasin, has told their Russian counterpart, Interfax, that Ukraine’s election is valid:

“We are waiting for an official outcome; the incoming information has been rather discrepant so far. But it is already clear that the election is valid in spite of the rather harsh and dirty election campaign.” 

Karasin still stuck to the Kremlin line that the conflict in eastern Ukraine can be blamed on the Ukrainian government, rather than Russian aggression, saying that the new parliament will have:

“to start an inclusive dialogue with entire society, establish direct contacts with representatives of regions and seek a diplomatic solution to the problems caused by the actions of Kyiv.” 

OSCE Praises Elections As ‘Important Step’ For Democracy In Ukraine
In a statement released today, the OSCE has praised yesterday’s parliamentary elections:

The 26 October early parliamentary elections marked an important step in consolidating democratic elections in line with international commitments, and were characterized by many positive aspects, including an impartial and efficient Central Election Commission (CEC), competitive contests that offered voters real choice, and general respect for fundamental freedoms, international observers concluded in a preliminary statement released today.

Elections in Ukraine are traditionally rife with fraud, and any election in a crisis zone could easily be disrupted by saboteurs and provocateurs, but all things considered the OSCE says this election went fairly smoothly:

In most of the country, election day proceeded calmly, with few disturbances and only isolated security incidents reported. The voting process was well-organized and orderly and was assessed positively in 99 per cent of the polling stations observed, although some procedural irregularities were identified, including during the counting and the early stages of the tabulation processes. Due to the efforts of the election administration to ensure voting in as much of the east as possible under extraordinary circumstances, including through simplified procedures allowing voters to temporarily transfer their voting address, voting took place in 12 out of 21 election districts in the Donetsk region, and in 5 out of 11 in the Luhansk region.

But as that statement reminds, the elections were not even held in the areas controlled by Russian-backed militants — militants which the Head of the OSCE PA delegation calls “illegal armed groups.”

“The nearly 30 seats that will be left empty in the new parliament serve as a stark reminder that illegal armed groups prevented voters in some parts of the country from being able to vote,” said Doris Barnett, Head of the OSCE PA delegation. “These illegal actions do not call into question the validity of the overall election. We look forward to these seats being filled as soon as possible so that representatives of those areas can join their colleagues in an open dialogue to the benefit of all Ukrainians.”

It’s worth noting that the OSCE is an international mission tasked with observing, among other things, both the ceasefire and the elections in Ukraine. It’s also worth noting that Russia is a member of the OSCE and, at least on paper and in rhetoric, supports their mission.

The entire statement can be read here.

Electoral Officials Came Under Fire Last Night Near Debaltsevo

UNIAN reports that members of the Donetsk regional electoral commission came under attack last night near Debaltsevo.

Electoral officials were transporting voting documents from the town of Ulegorsk (Vulehirsk in Ukrianian) when they came under fire at around 1 am.

The secretary of the 53rd district electoral commission, Irina Verchenko, said that the officials’ car was shelled whilst travelling to Kramatorsk.

Fortunately, she said, none of the passengers of the car were wounded during the attack.

As a result, all electoral documentation from Ulegorsk will be transported only during the day. 

Poor Showing for Far Right Parties Exposes Pro-Putin Propaganda

The Russian government regularly refers to the Euromaidan movement and the post-Yanukovych government as a radical movement, a group of “fascists” and “Nazis” which have seized control of a country. According to Russian media, and the Foreign Ministry, these radicals are a threat to Jews (and ethnic Russians) all over Ukraine and must be stopped.

Of course, over the last 252 days we’ve documented countless evidence that this is simply not true. Jewish leaders across the country have said that they see no rise in anti-Semitism. Some have even said that they fear Russia and its supporters far more than the new government in Kiev. On the streets of the capital, there is hardly any sign of the Far Right or its supporters. In the Presidential election, far fight candidates did very poorly. In short, Russia’s words were always nearly-pure propaganda.

However, there have been plenty of Western analysts who hide their pro-Putin sentiment more carefully. Many of those analysts have warned, without any evidence to support their thesis, that support for radical far-right movements is on the rise, and that wave could turn Ukraine into everything Russia has warned about.

The results of yesterday’s parliamentary elections should absolutely devastate that analysis as Far Right candidates not only lost ground but perhaps its most maligned party, Right Sector, may not have enough support to have any representation in parliament. Even Svoboda, often seen as the most mainstream far right party, has lost significant ground in every election since 2012, and an analysis by Anton Shekhovtsov suggests that Svoboda’s numbers are actually inflated because they have even less support in the districts in eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

Let’s quickly look at how the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, is elected. This is a great explanation for Hromadske TV’s election guide:

The parliamentary elections will work in a 50–50 format. By this method, half of parliament’s seats are proportionally allotted by the share of votes garnered by each political party. For example, if a political party gets 10% of the national vote, it will receive 5% of seats in the parliament. The other half of seats in parliament are apportioned to single-mandate voting districts with roughly equal populations. The candidate that receives the most votes in each district wins the seat.

If a party does very badly at the polls, none of its candidates will win outright and it may not receive enough support to meet the minimum amount, 5% of the vote, to be included in the proportional portion of the Rada either. Several radical parties, including Right Sector, appear to have fallen below this threshold (results are still preliminary). In a separate analysis on The Interpreter, Anton Shekhovtsov writes:

Where did Svoboda’s former electorate go? I presume that more moderate voters went back to the national-democratic forces, such as the People’s Front or Samopomich [“Self-help”]. Part of Svoboda’s former electorate apparently went to the Right Sector and Oleh Lyashko’s Radical Party. The inclusion of these two parties into the far right category is tentative. As a political party, the Right Sector is ideologically quite different from the movement under the same name that was formed during the 2014 revolution; the party is less radical than the movement, so I suggest the term “national conservative” as a more relevant one. Lyashko’s Radical Party is dangerously populist and a typical anti-establishment force. Although both the Right Sector and Lyashko’s Radical Party have extreme right members, they are still a minority. In contrast to Lyashko’s Radical Party, the Right Sector will not be able to enter the parliament, but its leader Dmytro Yarosh will most likely be elected in one of the single-member districts.

In fact, perhaps as a sign of frustration at how poorly the vote went yesterday, the bodyguards for Radical Party leader Oleg Lyashko attacked a TSN 1+1 camera crew last night.

And yet, there are plenty of think tanks, analysts, and journalists who, for various reasons, continue to spread pro-Putin propaganda and the argument that radicalism is on the rise in Ukraine.

Talakovka Shelled This Morning

Mariupol news site reports that the city’s defence headquarters has announced that Russian-backed forces began shelling Ukrainian positions in the village of Talakovka, on Mariupol’s north-eastern outskirts, at 7:10 (4:10 GMT) this morning.

The shelling has been conducted with both mortars and Grad rockets. One woman has, according to reports from the village, been wounded.

According to an update at 11:50 (9:50 GMT), snipers are operating in the area.

At 12:10 (10:10 GMT), the ATO headquarters reported that there had been no Ukrainian military casualties but four buildings had been struck by shells, seriously damaging one of them.

With 50.08% Of Votes Counted, 6 Parties Enter Rada

Ukrainska Pravda reports that Ukraine’s Central Election Commission (CEC) has announced that 50.08% of ballots cast in yesterday’s parliamentary election have now been counted.

The results so far give 6 parties the necessary 5% share of votes to enter the Verkhovna Rada.

The results, as of 13:39 (11:39 GMT), are:

21.61% – Popular Front

21.45% – Bloc Petro Poroshenko

11.1% – Samopomich

9.82% – Opposition Bloc

7.38% – Radical Party

5.69% – Batkivshchyna

The far-right Svoboda party has currently a little shy of the necessary votes to enter parliament, with 4.66% reported at 11:22 by Interfax-Ukraine

The leading Popular Front party is led by former Baktkivshchyna members Oleksandr Turchynov (interim president of Ukraine and Rada speaker during the most recent parliament) and Arseniy Yatsenyuk, prime minister of Ukraine. 

Turchynov said today that his party would seek, as expected, to form a coalition with President Poroshenko’s party as quickly as possible.

UNIAN reports:

“Let’s just go back to the agreement worked out in February, and resign it,” Turchynov told journalists at a briefing at Popular Front Party headquarters in Kyiv, referring to a deal struck by the then opposition to assume power after former President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country in the wake of the popular uprising against him.

“The main task of uniting is the formation of the government and parliamentary leadership,” Turchynov said.

“We have not changed our priorities – our European choice. We need to go back to the documents signed in February this year, and re-sign them. We can have more than 300 deputies in the [parliamentary] majority.”

Turchynov said that after the official announcement of the election results Popular Front would initiate the creation of a coalition.

“There’s no time for procrastination: the new government should get to work the next day after the new parliament begins its activities,” Turchynov said.

So far, neither the Communist Party nor Praviy Sektor have succeeded in passing the 5% threshold. 

Commenting on this result, Poroshenko said:

“For the first time in 96 years, the Ukrainian parliament will be without communists. I congratulate you with this event. Ukrainians have struck a final blow to a political fifth column. Justice has triumphed, and this also concerns the pro-Russian Party of Regions, which was unable to take part in the elections.” 

The leader of Praviy Sektor, Dmytro Yarosh, is, however, reportedly leading so far in the single-seat 39th electoral district in Dnepropetrovsk.

Ukrainska Pravda reported at 12:08 (9:08 GMT) that, with 66.87% of votes in that district counted so far, Yarosh was leading with 28.61%.

His nearest rival in the district, Maria Pustova, was trailing at 13.84%.

UNIAN reports that the CEC has announced that this election has received the lowest turnout in Ukraine’s history: 53.42%.

The turnout for each region (or oblast) was as follows:

70% – Lviv

68.28% – Ternopil

64.85% – Volyn

63.73% – Ivano-Frankivsk

59.58% – Rivne

60.21% – Khmelnytskyi

56.67% –  Zhytomyr

58.08% –  Vinnytsia

56.05% – Cherkassy

57.27% – Kiev

56.95% – Chernihiv

54.64% – Sumy

54.53% – Poltava

53.72% – Kirovohrad

47.86% – Dnepropetrovsk

32.87% – Lugansk

32.4% – Donetsk

45.32% – Kharkiv

47.19% – Zaporozhye

41.36% – Kherson

42.8% – Mykolaiv

39.52% – Odessa

44.68% – Zakarpattia 

The turnout in the city of Kiev itself was 55.86%