Ukraine's Quest for Freedom: An Eyewitness of Ukraine's Recent Presidential Election Gives an Overview of the Ballot Tampering, Vote Fraud, and Other Injustices Which Took Place

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Askold S. Lozynskyj was born in New York City on February 8, 1952, to Ukrainian immigrants who arrived in the United States in 1951. He is a graduate of Fordham College (1973, with a BA in Greek and Latin classical studies) and Fordham University School of Law (1976, with a JD). Mr. Lozynskyj is a member of the Bar of the State of New York, as well as a member of the federal bar for both the southern and eastern districts of New York. He is past president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America and is the current president of the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC), the umbrella organization for all Ukrainians outside Ukraine, numbering some 20 million people.

Mr. Lozynskyj was in Ukraine for the recent presidential election as head of a UWC election-monitoring team of over 400 observers, the largest non-governmental monitoring group. This interview was conducted on December 2 following his return to the U.S. from Ukraine.

THE NEW AMERICAN: There have been all kinds of reports" and charges about voting fraud, intimidation, and election "irregularities" surrounding Ukraine's November 21 presidential election. How serious were the violations?

Askold S. Lozynskyj: It was astounding! I was under the impression that the powers that be in Ukraine at least would make an attempt to create the impression of open and fair elections because they knew that the world was watching, that there would be large numbers of international observers--of which there were over 4,000. I had been in contact with their officials, and they had assured me that they wanted foreign observers and press there to witness that this was a legitimate election. But I was astounded at the arrogance of officials in their very open, blatant election violations--ballot stuffing, intimidation, using official resources to promote Viktor Yanukovich, the handpicked successor of Ukraine's outgoing president Leonid Kuchma.

TNA: What are some of the things that you and your observers saw firsthand? Mr. Lozynskyj: Well, for example, Yanukovich's campaign used government buses to bus large crowds of voters to polling places and then [told] them how to vote. At universities, they would tell students and teachers that if they wanted to stay at the university they had to work for and vote for Yanukovich. The government election officials sent out Yanukovich campaign materials stapled to the official invitations that were sent to all registered voters telling them where the polling places were. This is not hearsay; I personally saw this with my own eyes. And I saw, we saw, much more. They had, for instance, what they called "wandering ballots." This is where voters can be registered in more than one place and cast votes in more than one place. This was not insignificant because there were 1.5 million of these "wandering ballots." Given that the difference in the final count between the two candidates was only 800,000 votes, you can see that this made a tremendous difference. Essentially, you had 1.5 million people voting twice.

TNA: Yet, the official Central Election Commission certified Yanukovich as the winner. Who was on the commission?

Mr. Lozynskyj: They are, essentially, all people who were involved with the government, who are part of the Kuchma-Yanukovich team. I have said that it should be called the Commission to Elect Yanukovich rather than the Central Election Commission because, unfortunately, that is how they operated, in a very illegal and unethical fashion. Interestingly, many of the commission members are attorneys. But they are attorneys trained in the Soviet system and have operated their entire professional lives in that system and the very similar system that has continued in Ukraine. This involves a very important concept that too few people in the West understand. In the Communist systems, the attorney exists to serve and protect the state. In the West, the main function of the attorney is to protect the individual against the state. …