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By John Helmer, Moscow

The White House record claims that on the afternoon of Friday, February 21, President Barack Obama initiated a telephone call to President Vladimir Putin. But the US version of what was said claims Obama committed himself to supporting the agreement which President Victor Yanukovich had signed early on the same day with leaders of the Ukrainian opposition, and with the foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and France. “President Obama called Russian President Vladimir Putin”, the White House reported, and apparently agreed “to implement quickly the political agreement reached today in Kyiv”.

The transcript hasn’t been released, not yet. But the Kremlin version doesn’t report that Obama agreed to anything. Instead, Putin reportedly warned Obama against “working with the radical opposition, which has taken the confrontation in Ukraine to a very dangerous point.”

Within hours of saying what the White House says he said, Obama backed the move by the Ukrainian opposition to force Yanukovich from office. That is, he did what the Kremlin says Putin warned him not to do, and what the signatories of the February 21 pact had forsworn. Everybody in the civilized world now knows what that has led to.

Did Obama and Putin warn or threaten each other? Was Obama intentionally lying to Putin that afternoon, or the White House lying to everybody else, including the European Union (EU) ministers, as Obama gave the green light to a series of acts in violation of the Ukrainian Constitution – the presidential impeachment vote by the Verkhovna Rada on February 22; the vote on presidential incapacity on February 24; the vote to cancel the Law on Language on February 23; the dismissal of Constitutional Court judges (February 24); the replacement of the Crimean police chief (February 28), etc.

But what was the reason for such haste in disposing of Yanukovich, who had less than a half-dozen hours to discuss with his own men, and with Putin, what to do once it was clear the opposition was gunning for him?

pistolGunning is used in its literal meaning. According to the four sections of the Ukrainian Constitution’s Article 108 on the presidency, Yanukovich’s death was the only possible option the US and the Ukrainian opposition had in the circumstances to remove him, declare the presidency vacant, and call an election sooner than had been agreed by everyone on Friday morning, February 21.

Ukrainian polls of voter intention for that election help answer these Friday afternoon questions. They reveal that if the opposition politicians had delayed, as the Friday agreement required them to do, they were bound to face Ukrainian voter majorities opposed to Klitch, Yats and Tinybok — the US-named troika of Vitali Klitschko, Arseni Yatseniuk, and Oleg Tyagnibok running the country. Worse for the troika, the latest poll evidence shows that the longer the demonstrations continued in Kiev, and the more violence they threatened, the more polarized the sentiment became in the countryside and regions outside Kiev. That trend has been steadily worsening the east-west split, diluting thereby the countrywide hostility towards Yanukovich, which had motivated the Maidan movement when it first started.

The regional demographics of this trend are obvious. The population of the western regions of the Ukraine is about 11 million; of the central regions, including Kiev, 13 million; the southern regions, 8.5 million; the eastern regions, 14.5 million.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/

When the numbers in the country were counted, not the numbers on the Maidan, the Americans and their troika – Klitschko, Yatseniuk, and Tyagnibok – concluded they had to replace Yanukovich immediately; or else they were outnumbered and risked being out-voted, losing in time the popular support the Maidan demonstrations appeared to be giving them

Ukrainian pollsters and polling organizations acknowledge they have been struggling to carry out their voter surveys, in part, says one of the pollsters, because the countrywide protests have made it difficult to conduct interviews with some regional samples; and in part because of problems in Kiev of getting payment for work. Alexander Chashkovskiy reports from the Centre for Social and Marketing Research in Kiev (SOCIS) that his organization has been continuing to conduct polls, but that some are confidential to the commissioning clients, and that finding new clients has been hard.

klitschko_tyagnibokThe published and unpublished polling evidence indicates that by the time the February 21 terms had been agreed, a significant shift in sentiment was under way among Ukrainian voters. This wasn’t in favour of Yanukovich. But it was hostile to almost everything else the US-backed candidates – Klitschko (left) for president, Yatseniuk for prime minister, Tyagnibok (right) for head of defence and security – had been preparing in conjunction with US government officials.

For the scheme of State Department assistant secretary of state, Victoria Nuland, and ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, listen to this.

For the surge of Ukrainian opinion in the opposite direction, there is the poll conducted between February 8 and 18 by Volodymyr Illich Paniotto, a Ukrainian sociologist and head of the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS). His survey of voter intention for a second-round choice of presidential candidates reveals there was one candidate Ukrainian voters disliked and rejected more than Yanukovich – that was Tyagnibok, head of the anti-Russian Svoboda Party. If he ran against Yanukovich, the KIIS poll confirmed, he would be soundly beaten. In the government Tyagnibok formed with the others after Yanukobvich’s ouster, he controls defence and security, as well as retribution (the prosecutor-general).

The KIIS poll asked what Ukrainians believed (as of February 18) to be the reason for the Kiev protests. In response, 43% said it was the corruption of the Yanukovich regime. Another 30% said they believed manipulation by the US and EU was the reason. When these answers are broken down by region, 67.6% in the West blamed Yanukovich, and just 5.3% blamed the western powers. In the South and East, Yanukovich’s corruption was the view of 26.8% and 20%, respectively. Suspicion of the west – the Americans, the EU and western Ukraine – was identified in the South by 44%, in the East, by 57.1%.

The KIIS poll also asked a similar question: who do you believe was responsible for the escalation of the conflict in the country? In aggregate (as of February 18), 49% said Yanukovich. But in western Ukraine, the response was 80.3%; in the south, 34.7%; in the east, 22.8%. Blame for the US and EU was the response of 3.9% in the West; 34.6% in the East. Blame for the Kremlin was expressed by 11.7% in the West; 2.3% in the East.

Asked to identify which side in the Maidan they were most sympathetic to, the poll reported 2.6% for Yanukovich in the West; 51.9% in the East. Sympathy for the Maidan protesters was polarized in the same way – 80.4% in the West, 7.5% in the East.

Clearer evidence of what US officials and the Tyagnibok forces were afraid of on February 21 has now been published in the latest voter intention survey from SOCIS. The survey was carried out between February 25 and March 4. The nationwide sampling was the same as the SOCIS polls previously reported. Sampling error, the percentage which carries no interpretative value, is 2.2%.

The removal of Yanukovich has had a surprising effect. Voter support for Klitschko, Yatseniuk, Tyagnibok, and Yulia Tymoshenko, who was released from prison on February 22, is evaporating rapidly; it is now smaller in the nationwide count than it was in the January and February polls.

klitschko_boxKlitschko has dropped in voter choice for president to 14.6%; Tymoshenko to 9.7%; and Tyagnibok to 2.5%. When Ukrainians were asked to qualify their own preference by predicting which candidate they now believe most likely to be elected president, Klitschko has dropped to 12.6% behind Tymoshenko with 13.6%. Despite his command of the media since he was named prime minister on February 25, Yatseniuk is noone’s prediction for winning the presidency. Tyagnibok is down to 1.3%.

Two other results of the latest SOCIS poll are surprises which have not been detected yet in either the US or Russian media. The first is that the anti-Russian business candidate, chocolate manufacturer Petro Poroshenko, has picked up votes: he is now the choice of 21.2% of the SOCIS poll, almost 7 percentage points ahead of Klitschko and 12 points ahead of Tymoshenko. In January Poroshenko was the presidential preference of 10.5%; 9% when Tymoshenko was included in the list of candidates. At the start of February, SOCIS reported Poroshenko’s support was up to 13%; 11.2% if Tymoshenko was in the race. The percentage gains which separated Poroshenko from Tymoshenko a few weeks ago were barely more than statistical error.

poroshenkoPoroshenko (right) also tops the poll of candidates whom Ukrainians think are likely to win in May. He now has 15.9%, compared to Tymoshenko with 13.6% and Klitschko with 12.6%. The margins are too small to be reliable, but the trend is unmistakable. Now, following the installation of the US-backed government, Ukrainian voter support has moved in a different direction from the one intended by the US and the troika of Klitschko, Yatseniuk and Tyagnibok.

SOCIS has not released the regional breakdown of the new presidential preference and prediction results. But there are already indications that the longer Yatseniuk and Tyagnibok run the government in Kiev, and Klitschko is forced to run his presidential campaign without the Maidan for a stage, the more determined Ukrainians across the country are to vote for someone else.

There is no evidence that Poroshenko paid for the SOCIS poll. The paying client, according to a SOCIS source, was Media-Prostir, a media monitoring concern based in Kiev. It may have been acting for someone else. There is no evidence that Poroshenko commissioned the poll showing him as the frontrunner.

The regional evidence is that Poroshenko’s support is concentrated in the centre of the country, in and around Kiev. He is viewed there as a moderate, compared with his US-favoured rivals. However, Poroshenko is still seen as an American stooge in the south and east. Promotion of him in the New York Times and other US media suggests that in some US government agencies officials are looking for an alternative presidential option, and moving against the selections of Nuland and Pyattt at the State Department.

Evidence of an inter-agency conflict in Washington, if there is one, has so far been muted by the anti-Russian campaign uniting State, Treasury, and the White House.

But there is one further surprise in the SOCIS poll revealed this week. That is, the 48.7% of Ukrainians who refuse to predict whom they believe will be elected; and the 29.6% who said they would not make a choice of candidate from those on the list presented in the poll; or would not vote if the list were to be their only choice.

These are the Ukrainians from the south, east, and also in the central regions who are usually described in American polling as the silent majority. By staying silent they are demonstrating the repugnance now felt towards those who seized power in Kiev over the night of February 21. Whether their votes will have been moved by the intensification of the anti-Russian campaign this week has yet to be measured by the pollsters. As of March 4, the SOCIS poll registered that if a referendum were to be held on aligning Ukraine with the EU or with Russia, the country is split down the middle – 50.1% favour the EU, 30.7% support Russia, and 19.2% are undecided or refuse to say.

Since SOCIS measured responses to the same question a month ago, there has been no change in the pro-Russia bloc. The pro-EU bloc has gained 7 points, and the undecideds have dwindled by 6.2%. These numbers represent a much quieter, more stable reaction than the international media have been reporting.

If and when SOCIS publishes the regional breakdowns, they are likely to show, as the earlier KIIS poll already confirmed, that Ukrainian opinion is moving, not in the direction prompted by Kiev, Washington, or Brussels, but according to the local loyalties. Political partition has now occurred – no presidential candidate in the running can bridge it.

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