Pig Chasing & Poster Wars: Poroshenko’s Chaotic Pre-Election Rally in Lutsk

On March 14th Petro Poroshenko visited Lutsk and the nearby town of Kovel as a part of his pre-election PR tour. He did not announce his trip, seemingly, in an attempt to throw Arsen Avakov’s Nazis from National Corpusoff the scent, since they are now a focal point of his rallies. Local journalists joked that Poroshenko will come to their region “incognito” – a reference to the President’s Maldivian holiday, where he was listed as Mr. Petro Incognito.

In the morning Poroshenko stated that he was heading to Donbass to congratulate UAF militants on “Day of the Volunteer”. However, people in Volyn still prepared themselves to meet the president. In Lutsk the entire center was blocked – just like the day prior in Chernigov – and travel was restricted.

As a result of the tight security measures aimed against titushki, ordinary people are pushed away as far as possible from the president. And what was originally conceived as “communication with the people” turned into a staged photo session when Poroshenko, through the fence, welcomed state employees who were brought to the meeting with him.

In the night, UAF militants hung a banner on the facade of a nine-story building in Lutsk, which said: “You became the President at the expense of the bloodshed of the guys from the 51st separate mechanised brigade. In order to hide their crimes, your Generals destroyed it. Volyn does not forgive this”. Afterwards an unknown climber tried to remove this huge anti-Poroshenko poster. The veterans who detained him (they were guarding their creation) said that he admitted that unknown people asked him to cut down the banner in exchange for money.

In a game of cat and mouse with “National Corpus”, the president planned to visit the Drama Theater in Lutsk, where at 10:00 the second stage of the VI All-Ukrainian Congress of the Society of Foresters of Ukraine had to begin. But Poroshenko did not come there. Instead he flew to Donbass. At 09:46 a message appeared on the president’s site saying that he congratulated the volunteers. In confirmation of this a photo was published from the scene. How early he congratulated the military personnel is unknown. Thus, the event in Kovel started and ended without the “main speaker”. It was reported by the journalist Anatoly Shary that Poroshenko’s meeting with the Nazi “Azov” battalion wasn’t as rosy as was reported on the President’s Facebook page, where a cut-down video was posted.

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I am flying to the frontline. To also visit our volunteers. For me, volunteers are the battalion of Kulchitsky. Those who, not expecting appeals, came to the defence of Ukraine

At the same time, a post about his visit to Transcarpathia appeared on the president’s Facebook page and then immediately disappeared.

Today, at the Regional Development Council, together with the assets of the communities of Transcarpathia, we talk about the current state of affairs and plans for the future

The resident of the Lutsk region Nikolay Gachevsky brought a pig to meet Poroshenko – “little Svinarchuk, who he called Petro “in honour of our guarantor”. In addition, another “Svinarchuk” appeared on the streets of Lutsk – a bigger one. He was driven through the streets on a leash. The police detained the larger pig on a leash and had an explanatory conversation with his owner.  As a continuation of the “swine” theme, some of the Lutsk residents came to the meeting with the President armed with Peppa Pig.

In the center of Lutsk the residents held posters with the words “Who answered for Debaltsevo?”, “Mr. President, how much did your friends earn from kickbacks in the defence industry?”, and “Poroshenko, how much does Medvedchuk pay you?”.

The entire territory in front of the theater in Lutsk was fenced off, there were about hundred people there as a part of the rally. As has become the norm now vis-a-vis Poroshenko’s pre-election rallies, the eyewitnesses of the “Strana” website noticed a lot of buses with “extras” (rent-a-crowd) who were sent from Lutsk to Kovel. And before the concert in Kovel, several large buses stopped in the center of the town, which most likely transported supporters of the president.

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At 16:00 it was discovered that unknown persons had ripped up the anti-Poroshenko posters that had been placed outside the walls of the theater in Lutsk.

As it later turned out, a supporter of Poroshenko (a woman in a red jacket) and a man who held a poster about responsibility for the death of military personnel in Debaltsevo clashed in front of the drama theater. The skirmish developed into a crush, and several supporters of the president tore the posters. Then the police detained the man. He said that his nephew died in Donbass in 2014 and showed to the police a photo of him at the stand devoted to the Heavenly Hundred and those who died in the “war against Russia”. The man was released as a result.

After a long delay, Poroshenko finally arrived in Kovel at around 18:00 local time. Local media reported that Poroshenko brought titushki with him, planted them in the crowd, and tasked them with grabbing anti-Poroshenko posters.

On stage, together with Petro Poroshenko, there was the people’s deputy and founder of the “Pan Kurchak” agricultural-industrial group Sergey Martynyak (People’s Will), people’s deputy Stepan Ivakhiv (People’s Will), head of the Volyn Regional State Administration Aleksandr Savchenko, and two guards. During his speech, Poroshenko said, without any shame, that he would “work day and night to work together with Ukrainians to achieve social well-being”. “We are not going to make a mistake on March 31st,” he said, with a straight face. The crowd shouted out where are Svinarchuk’s severed hands, “why is the president doing business on blood”, and “why do you pursue Anatoly Shary.

As is now customary, the Ukrainian “Strana” news agency gave its 2 cents after yet another Poroshenko pre-election rally:

  • With every new “Poro Tour”, the president is showing more and more his creativity in isolating himself – from the cruel, inhospitable world of his own rallies.

  • In Zhytomyr he set up an iron fence between himself and the people for the first time. And in Chernigov hundreds of policemen and a strict access regime were added to the fencing.

  • Today in Volyn Poroshenko developed success. Deceiving manoeuvres were added to everything listed — a flight to Lutsk via Mariupol — as well as exhausting the enemy, who had to wait for the guarantor for more than ten hours. That’s how long the foresters who gathered in the Lutsk drama theater and state employees who were brought to the neighbouring Kovel waited to listen to Poroshenko. However, the adversary in this case was not them, but a tandem of disparate activists. Most of them are radicals from “National Corpus”, who pursue the president and drive away his mobile theater throughout the country. Moreover, the measures taken to drown out their voices, as we see, are unprecedented. And if the trend continues, Poroshenko will soon start gathering rallies at night, via Skype, or in the scenery of Dovzhenko studios. But even in its present form, the campaign of the “guarantor of the constitution” looks hopelessly frustrated.

  • The natural advantage of the president – to promote himself at the public’s expense across the country – has stopped working. It is unlikely that people will vote for a candidate who paralyses the life of the city for the whole day and stress out activists in order to praise himself from the stage for half an hour.
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