Kommersant reports on a meeting last Thursday between Vladimir Putin and his alter ego in Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich. It seems to have turned into a Keystone Cops affair, and reader "Elmer" observes
You might note the comment about the meeting starting on time (a miracle!) and a supposed gaffe committed by Yanuk - he sat down before Putin did. Or rather, seems to have plopped himself down into a chair. Ukraine's parliament has been disbanded, and new elections are set for September 30. Key comment - Putin's, and the reporter's, beffudlement and bemusement over Ukraine being in "crisis." Apparently, to Putin and his supporters, a crisis is when elections come up. Note also the reference to the "older brother" providing understanding and advice to the "younger brother." This is a left-over piece of russkie chauvinism, dating way back to tsarist days, and carried through into sovok times. Is Putin pining for a Russian empire? You bet.Crisis Pays a Visit to Stability
Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych met with Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday during his visit to Moscow. During his meeting with Viktor Yanukovych, Vladimir Putin made a stab at understanding who in the Ukrainian government is in the opposition and who is in the coalition. Kommersant special correspondent Andrei Kolesnikov has the details from their meeting.
The meeting between the Ukrainian prime minister and the Russian president began precisely at the appointed hour, at 19:00 Moscow Time, which is an unprecedented occurrence not only in the relationship between Ukraine and Russia but also in Russia's relationship with any foreign government in recorded history.
Vladimir Putin greeted Mr. Yanukovych on the second floor of the presidential residence outside Moscow and offered him a seat in a the closest armchair. Mr. Putin's own chair was further away, and Mr. Yanukovych sat firs – in fact, he simply threw himself down in the chair without waiting for Vladimir Putin to make it over to his own seat. He seemed to be playing at musical chairs, the game in which there's always one less chair than the number of children and everyone has to hustle to get a chair so as to not disgrace themselves in front of the other players.
It would seem that the episode meant absolutely nothing at all. And yet Vladimir Putin, accustomed to rigid adherence to the iron protocol of the Kremlin (which I firmly believe includes a clause stating that the Russian president shall never arrive anywhere on time), looked briefly disgruntled. And suddenly that episode became a gross violation of protocol.
"Frankly speaking, we look with sympathy at what is happening in Ukraine," said Vladimir Putin, clearly still reeling a bit after the curve ball thrown by the Ukrainian prime minister's gaffe, "since all recent indications showed that economic growth and real improvement in the social sphere had started, and now the country has again run into political problems that need to be gotten through… But we are counting on our primary partner in the post-Soviet space, and in general one of our main economic partners, to deal with these problems as quickly as possible. Everything will pull through, it will happen in due course…we hope within the framework of the law and the existing constitution…"
Vladimir Putin spoke to Viktor Yanukovych like an older brother, one who is concerned about what's going on in his younger brother's life but who also finds it difficult to understand how the guy can live in such revolting disorder. An older brother, with his certainty about tomorrow, who could never even imagine such a thing.
"Unfortunately, we are going through the next stage of the political crisis that began almost at the very beginning of April," said Viktor Yanukovych gloomily. "The main thing that we have managed to achieve during that period – and we believe it to be a big achievement – is that all branches of government are operating within the law."
Then he realized that maybe that isn't quite the whole truth, and that maybe he should own up to his older brother.
"But there are still unresolved questions that need to be resolved, mainly by the opposition," he added, his facade crumpling. "It is these questions that basically open the door to holding legal elections. That was our first demand, and the second demand of the coalition is that if the elections are held, they must be transparent and clean…"
"You don't have an opposition!" interrupted Vladimir Putin. "All of you are in the government! Who is in the opposition? I can't figure it out for the life of me. Everybody's in power over there."
The older brother appeared to be dissatisfied with the mess into which he had been forced to dive for the sake of close family ties.
"I remember very well the conversation that I had with you, one of the first, when you asked what the constitutional reform is," began Viktor Yanukovych hastily. "It is to some extent the flaws in the constitutional reform that we need to resolve, and I think that in any case the question of whether there will be elections or not is open, because the balance of power creates the conditions for it to be effective as whole and because it's not possible for any of the branches of government to interrupt their work."
If someone had tried to delve into what Viktor Yanukovych was talking about at this point, he probably wouldn't have gotten that Mr. Yanukovych is talking about the dissolution of the legislature. All the more so because the prime minister had managed to confuse himself.
"In that case, the chain is broken," he said without a pause, "and basically the country cannot live in those conditions. That's what has happened now in Ukraine."
So it turns out that Ukraine cannot live anymore. And then, of course, the question arises as to what physical state Ukraine is currently in. It turns out that it's in a coma.
"But in addition to that, all of these processes are taking place peacefully," continued Viktor Yanukovych. "We have not allowed any clashes or civil strife. Although we cannot really call that a big achievement…"
It was long past time for him to stop talking. Every word could be used against him.
"We're just glad that human blood wasn't spilled…" said Viktor Yanukovych, and his eyes became warm and even somehow radiant. "We believe that crises come and go, but life goes on!"