News / Europe

Analysis: Ukraine’s Likely President Leans Toward West but Must Face Moscow

Ukrainian presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko, left, talks with Vitali Klitschko, at right, during a press conference, in Kyiv, Ukraine, May 26, 2014.
Ukrainian presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko, left, talks with Vitali Klitschko, at right, during a press conference, in Kyiv, Ukraine, May 26, 2014.
Billionaire Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s likely new president, wasted little time in exhibiting his pro-Western leanings.
 
“We need to do all our best to bring in European values,” he said in a victory speech at a rally in Kyiv, after exit polls gave him a clear majority in the first round of voting Sunday.
 
Standing by his side as he spoke was the formidable bulk of former heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko, the probable new mayor-elect of Kyiv and one of the leaders of the pro-European street protests that ousted Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovych in February.
 
Klitschko’s withdrawal from the presidential race and his endorsement of Poroshenko were key elements in the oligarch’s first-round victory.
 
But in the immediate days and weeks, the most important challenge facing Ukraine’s fifth president since the country broke with the Soviet Union 23 years ago isn’t the country’s developing ties with Europe, analysts say.
 
The priority will be to repair Kyiv’s shattered relations with Moscow, they say, and to find a solution to the separatist insurgency that Kyiv accuses the Kremlin of fomenting.
 
Separatists - as if to emphasize they have no intention of throwing in the towel as exit polls indicated there would be no need for a run-off election next month - forced the shutdown of Donetsk airport Sunday night. The evening standoff came after they threatened poll workers, closed polling stations and intimidated voters.
 
On Sunday night, Poroshenko described relations with Russia as “the hardest in the last 200 years.”

But the oligarch, nicknamed the “chocolate king” for his confectionary business empire, added a note of optimism, saying, “I'm sure that we can talk to Russia with the help of the U.S.”
 
Business community seeking calm
 
It may be domestic allies among Ukraine’s oligarchs who can help him more than Washington. They have already started the process, say aides to Poroshenko.

A key interlocutor behind the scenes is Ukraine’s richest businessman, Donetsk native Rinat Akhmetov. The coal and steel magnate last week threw his weight behind the pro-unity cause – belatedly, some critics says – and urged his workers in east Ukraine to help boost law and order in the region and to stage protests against separatists.
 
“Akhmetov has good contacts in the Kremlin and he is using them now,” a European diplomat told VOA.
The diplomat said Ukrainian businessmen are partly responsible for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s softened rhetoric last week.
 
The Russian leader on Friday said he would respect the election’s outcome, a shift from his earlier position that Yanukovych’s ouster was a coup and the election therefore illegal.
 
Kremlin expectations
 
Diplomats and analysts here say the key to a solution in the east rests with satisfying Moscow sufficiently on two Kremlin demands: that closer European ties will not result in Ukraine later joining NATO and that the mostly Russian-speaking eastern areas are granted semi-autonomy.
 
The interim government of acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has already indicated it favors considerable decentralization of power.
 
But it has not given in to Moscow’s demand for a federal solution that would allow Donetsk and Luhansk to run, among other things, their own foreign policies.
 
Ukrainian politicians fear that the federalization of Ukraine would allow Moscow greater opportunity to manipulate and interfere in the former Soviet republic.
 
On Sunday night, Poroshenko, who was born in the southern port city of Odessa, made clear he opposes anything more than decentralization.
 
“Over 90 percent of Ukrainians voted for a united Ukraine, not a federative state,” he said.
 
NATO stance uncertain
 
Poroshenko’s position on NATO is unclear, although he has said he doesn’t want to hold a national referendum on joining the Western security pact.
 
The referendum issue was pushed hard by the runner-up in Sunday’s elections, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
 
Even if Moscow can be satisfied about the east, diplomats say it is unlikely that security can quickly be restored in the east.
 
“The worry is that there will be a lot of angry and armed separatists feeling let down by Moscow and fearful that if they surrender, they will end up in jail,” a European diplomat said.
 
The head of Ukraine’s intelligence service, Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, told VOA that he opposes an amnesty and that everyone who participated in the separatist insurgency should face punishment.

“These people are terrorists and they should be prosecuted,” said Nalyvaichenko, chief of SBU. “These people should have no place to hide and no way to avoid criminal prosecution.”
 
Analysts say a continued low-grade insurgency would likely make it harder for Kyiv to persuade irregular nationalist groups, some who have joined a recently formed National Guard, to stand down, risking clashes.
 
Pressure to address corruption
 
Aside from overcoming the daunting challenges of the east, Poroshenko also faces massive expectations for speedy reform of Ukraine’s graft-engrained political and judicial systems.
 
Anger with widespread corruption provided much of the fuel for the months-long mass protests in Kyiv’s Independence Square, or Maidan, that toppled Yanukovych.
 
Recent opinion polls have indicated corruption remains one of Ukraine’s most serious problems.
 
Analysts say Poroshenko’s third-biggest challenge will be coping with a parliament dominated by Yanukovych-era politicians, some of whom are under investigation by a new anti-corruption agency.

Some Ukrainians fear that parliament will drag its heels on reforms that threaten members’ interests and their business dealings.
 
Poroshenko said he favors early parliamentary elections this year.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Arkansas, North Carolina have approved similar laws that gay-marriage opponents say help maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: john from: canada
May 27, 2014 8:56 PM
Religion and nationalism /rasism is the biggest problem of our time.PUTIN AS A DIALECTIL MATERIAIST should know better'i

by: Pyotr from: Siberia
May 27, 2014 5:18 AM
Ukraine is the largest country where many native Russians live. I am glad it finally is becoming a free country. Hope the same will happen to Russia. Long live, Ukraine! I am sure when Russia is free Crimea will be returned to Ukraine. We have plenty of our own land, we need not others'. We need friends not territories. Putin's an idiot and a thief, he is not able to understand that.

by: Igor from: Russia
May 26, 2014 10:55 PM
The most serious problem with Ukraine comes from within Ukaine, not from the EU or Russia. It is the corruption from government to government that has brought the whole nation down. Both pro-western and pro-russian governments in the past were totally corrupted. Following the West or Russia will not bring prosperity unless corruption has been eliminated. And that has separated the nation Now we hope the new government will bring peace and prosperity to Ukraine.

by: arslonga vitabrevis from: us
May 26, 2014 1:36 PM
If some separatists are afraid of incarceration why don’ they just leave if they are ready to stop and the ones that aren’t ready to stop, do they not see that now is the time for negotiations to get needs met and they are stopping the process they seek, a negotiated increased semi-autonomy. Continued aggression with a leader like Poroshenko who is able to address differing perspective, will then appear to be aggression for aggression’s sake not for the resolution of issues; these separatists will then show themselves to be warmongers seeking any excuse to agitate and create unrest and to not be truly seeking a solution, but just a group of people who will always want to play war. Porshenko will not have patience for this.

If the Russians truly, unequivocally support the election and its new president, they would publically announce to the separatists to stop their takeovers, actions of violence and aggression. The international leaders, involved organizations, Ukrainian people and leaders need to make a SPECIFIC request to Putin, specifically to confirm his support with a specific statement addressing the separatists to lay down arms, stop the aggression and let negotiation and compromise take their concerns forward from this point on. Putin can publically make this statement and end ALL the violence. Until he makes a statement such as this, he is promoting, supporting aiding and abetting, directing the violence.

These separatists are wishing to join Russia and in this Putin in no uncertain terms holds power over their actions. He needs to make a public statement demanding the separatists stop their takeovers and violent processes. There is no leadership at all in the separatists or Putins actions to create a sustainable functioning territory, none. A people’s concerns cannot be addressed without leadership or through the use of terrorism. The separatists are their own worst enemy; their process is going to destroy what they seek to create. Leadership from all involved, is the answer to meeting needs.
In Response

by: ringo from: russia
May 27, 2014 3:13 AM
Why Abama not make a suggestion Poroshenko to stop the anti-terrorist operation the armed forces of Ukraine against the Ukrainian civilians in the East of their own opinion, not the opinion Abama. Just don't tell that you don't know. that are not only those who has the gun in their hands, but also killed women and children.
In Response

by: Anonymous
May 26, 2014 11:38 PM
Right, Putin should be on a loud speaker asking all "Russian Speaking People" to refrain from violence and abide by Ukrainian Laws. If they want change then do it democratically and through proper channels. Guns and Bombs will NOT fix any situation.

Putin is still trying to wash the blood off his hands from Syria.

by: Frank Capra from: Ekaterinburg RU
May 26, 2014 11:51 AM
God bless Ukraine and her new President. Godspeed to a better democracy and a more prosperous and free Ukraine.
In Response

by: Anonymous
May 26, 2014 11:39 PM
Absolutely agreed.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More