A priest writes from Ukraine

 The peace of Christ. Thanks again for your support and for publishing the article on the situation here in Ukraine. I received over 50 e-mails yesterday as a result the publication and tried to reply to each one. So many communities have offered prayers at Eucharists and promised to further publicize the information, which is helpful for all. In view of the compassionate support and critical interest, I thought I would offer you an update at the moment. First, the crowd continues to grow in the capital, Kyiv. Current estimates are 1 million people have gathered. One of our scholastics is there. Kyivans are supplying the visitors with food and shelter, quite a communal hospitality. The crowd is of all ages, though predominantly young adults. Similar manifestations occur daily in other cities of the country, even in areas that voted predominantly for the government candidate. Second, certain historical and covert government controls are coming apart. For example, all but one national television network are either state owned or owned by members of the outgoing President's inner circle. His son-in-law, allegedly the second richest man in the country, owns one. As has been known unofficially, these stations had to telecast only the political items indicated by the government. This was one of the complaints of international observers, that reportage of the opposition never appeared on these networks and that independent stations lost their licences in the run-up to the election. Everyday there was extensive coverage of the President's chosen candidate. In the days following the election, journalists at five of these networks went on strike and, against the wishes of the owners, appeared collectively on camera to say that they had been forced to report only the government line throughout the campaign but from now would give accurate coverage according to international journalistic standards. The point is that everyone knew this to be a fact but not many could say it publicly without fear of recrimination. Another example of the government's loss of control and the end of an era is that the former Minister for Defence and the Deputy Minister for Finance have spoken out openly about the falsification orchestrated by the government side and called for the President to admit as much. The government printing press through the night prepared a publication illegally declaring its candidate as the new President. Workers at the printing press informed the opposition and the copies were seized. The publication was illegal in the sense that the Supreme Court has not judged on the elections and thus no such declaration can be made. But once again, the fact that government employees reacted against the government shows the overall loss of influence of the government and loss of fear by the people. Progressively, more departments of government, state institutions and businesses are declaring their support for the opposition. Rock stars, poets, and athletes have appeared in Kyiv's Independence Square in support of the opposition candidate. Rock singers who appeared on tour with the President's candidate are now confessing on television that they were pressured into appearing and that about 80% of them support the opposition candidate. No publics figures have declared their support for the outgoing President or his candidate. Police forces and the army have sworn publicly that they will not act against the people in the name of the government. More and more reports come from the regions controlled by the President and his candidate that people were forced to vote against their wishes, being threatened in various ways as well as being paid for their vote. There is a persistent, disturbing rumour that several hundred Russian elite troops are in the country in Ukrainian uniforms at the bidding of the President. This is unconfirmed, though the President made a quick trip to St. Petersburg on Tuesday. Clearly, he realizes that he cannot count on the support of police and military to do what he says. The fear is that the troops will start a chain reaction allowing for a State of Emergency to be declared. The rumour is not independently confirmed, though one member of Parliament claims it is true. If so, it is a breach of Ukrainian law and another embarrassment for Putin. All remains very peaceful, though the next political steps are difficult and difficult to predict. Public order remains secure. There is no threat of violence, anarchy or disrespect of law by the crowds. Quite the contrary and this is impressive. Members of the huge opposition crowds have taken food and hot drinks to the small camp of government supporters in a sign of friendship. However, an uncomfortable political stalemate hangs in the air, which the current Polish President and former Polish President Lech Walesa hope to mediate. They have arrived in the country. The stalemate consists in this. A legally viable solution must be found that will bind all parties. This is possible, but the President must make the next move. Second, the solution must allow the current administration to save face to some degree. Third, the concerns of those who voted for the government candidate in good conscience must be respected. Though his time and possibilities are running out, the President still is trying to influence the situation through covert means rather than speaking openly with people. He and his candidate are seen only in closed offices with their immediate supporters around them. They have not been seen in public since election day. On a broader scale, it is worth noting that the crowds are largely, though not entirely, of a generation that did not grow up under the repressions of communism. They do not have the fear nor the anger of their parents, both of which augur well for a peaceful and fairly just resolution. The voice of the international community remains key. Something should break within the next day or two. Thanks again for the support. We remain in need of prayer and promise our in return. David Nazar, SJ dnazar@jesuits.ca

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