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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No One Is Afraid of the Big Orange Wolf

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I was in Ukraine last week sitting with an old friend in his kitchen. We were talking about politics, recalling the Moscow barricade of 1991 after the coup attempt against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and the 2004 Orange Revolution in Kiev. About 200 meters away from us, a few thousand supporters of Yulia Tymoshenko were happily picketing the Central Election Commission building. Local residents hurried past without showing any particular interest in the gathering. The bored faces of the few unarmed policemen on the scene contrasted sharply with the events in Moscow in April, when heavily armed riot police broke up the Dissenters' March. At that demonstration, the police outnumbered the protesters by a margin of at least three to one.

"I think Ukraine is not threatened by disintegration," my friend said. He explained that among Ukraine's nationalist political elite there are individuals who are willing to let the Russian-speaking eastern half of the country break away and form their own Donetsk republic. But for Renat Akhmetov, that isn't enough. He wants all of Ukraine, and that is why he will be negotiating with both Viktor Yushchenko and Tymoshenko regardless of the election's outcome.

Akhmetov is Ukraine's top oligarch. He is also the brains and financier behind the Party of the Regions, also know as the Blues, headed by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Among other things, Akhmetov puts big money into the development of the largest daily newspaper, Sevodnya, which enjoys a national readership. The paper supports the Blues, but not so much as to turn readers away to other parties.

Immediately following the Orange Revolution two years ago, the city's mayor and supporter of former President Leonid Kuchma, Ruslan Bodelan, was ousted from office on charges of falsifying the mayoral election. The mayor was replaced by his "losing" election opponent, former Odessa Mayor Eduard Hurvits, who was connected with the Orange movement. Those with political and business connections to Bodelan were in a panic and expected to be persecuted. Today, those people are counted among Hurvits' admirers. Serhiy Kivalov, founder of a law academy in Odessa, especially benefits from his patronage.

This is the same Kivalov who was chairman of the Central Election Commission in 2004 and was accused by Orange Revolution leaders to be one of the worst perpetrators of election fraud. Nonetheless, prominent members among both the ruling authorities and the opposition bought land on a Black Sea beach, erected a fence around it, and built their resort palaces there. True, townspeople must now make a large detour to visit one of the most popular beaches, but is that too high a price to pay for peace and harmony among the elite?

This recent trip to Ukraine has left me with the impression that regardless of how strongly political passions may have raged there, most of the political establishment -- regardless of its "color" -- is basically peaceful and ready to strike a bargain with anyone as long as its own interests are honored.

A publisher from the "Orange" city of Rovno in western Ukraine had a huge desire to do something nice for me because I was a publisher and because I was from Russia. He first expressed his gratitude to the Western embassies that supported him in his conflicts with local authorities. He then went on to praise President Vladimir Putin for his hard political line with the West, saying that was the only way Putin could get the West to respect him.

Is this the same Orange Revolution that so frightened Russian authorities? Kuchma labored so hard to build a power vertical that finally collapsed -- and nobody suffered as a result. Just the opposite happened: The thieves and the honest folk are all living much better these days, and they love Ukraine more than they ever did. What's so scary about that?

Alexei Pankin is the editor of Strategii i Praktika Izdatelskogo Biznesa, a magazine for publishing business professionals.