In a country where elections are held once a year
, it's never too early to start campaigning. Former Ukrainian Prime Minister and Party of Regions head Viktor Yanukovych recently paid a visit to Simferopol, the capital of Crimea,
to do just that.
Yanukovych has always had a firm base in Crimea. In the last elections, the Party of Regions was the big winner in the region. His party cohorts have been in power there for several years running. In 2006 in Crimea, his party received 43 percent of the vote.
Poor Yanukovych then must have been pretty surprised to see a group of about 100 protesters, angry about his visit and openly calling him a traitor.
It appears that Yanukovych, a very pro-Russian politician originally from Ukraine's industrial heartland of Donbas, is not pro-Russian enough for the likes of the Congress of Russian Communities in Crimea.
One of the organizers of the demonstration, Russian activist Serhiy Shuveynikov, said he no longer trusts the Party of Regions. "All these years, being both in power and in the opposition, Yanukovych hasn't kept any of his pre-election promises: he hasn't safeguarded the Russian language, he hasn't intensified Ukraine's friendship with Russia, he hasn't stood up for the rights of [ethnic] Russians."
Yanukovych didn't bother speaking with the protesters. Actually, he didn’t bother speaking with his supporters either, who were outnumbered by the protesters. He did speak to the party faithful and students who were bussed in for the occasion.
Yanukovych stood up for the Russian language -- in Russian, of course. "What are these games [concerning] the Russian language? Why this mockery of children who go into the first grade, students who graduate from Russian-language high schools? Why this discreditation?" he asked.
He meant discrimination, of course, but what kind of discrimination is anyone's guess. This from a man who has been prime minister of Ukraine twice and who is notorious for butchering the Ukrainian language.
A favorite activity of Ukrainian journalists in the past was to find things that Yanukovych had written and count the spelling errors. He once even spelled professor wrong, poor thing, even though he has claims on that title.
-- Irene Chalupa