News / Europe

Ukraine's Russian Fleet Deal Raises Cultural Concerns

Tuesday's egg-throwing brawl in the Ukrainian Parliament was sparked by a controversial agreement to extend the lease for Russia's Black Sea Fleet in the port of Sevastopol through 2042. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych negotiated the agreement with Moscow in exchange for a 30-percent discount on imports of Russian natural gas for 10 years. But critics are concerned about the cultural implications of Mr. Yanukovych's foreign policy toward Russia.

President Yanukovych has had a busy foreign policy agenda in his two months in office. He has visited Brussels, Moscow, Washington and Strasbourg. He was in Belarus and has an invitation to visit Berlin. At the recent nuclear summit in Washington, he relinquished Ukraine's stockpile of enriched uranium. He also held bilateral meetings there with the German Chancellor, the presidents of the United States, France and China, and the prime ministers of India, Canada and Turkey.

Last week, he hosted Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, where he negotiated the Black Sea Fleet Agreement.

Mr. Yanukovych signed the deal, saying it was unprecedented in the history of relations between Ukraine and Russia.

Independent Ukrainian political analyst Vitaliy Bala notes Mr. Yanukovych's majority in Parliament ratified the agreement without debate.

Bala says it appears the president absolutely does not care what a significant segment, perhaps even a majority of Ukrainians think about this agreement and how his actions may squeeze the Ukrainian out of Ukraine on a state level.

Bala notes that 17 of Ukraine's 25 regions voted against Mr. Yanukovych, which should give him pause about antagonizing widespread concerns that a Russian military and economic presence in Ukraine could be accompanied by unwanted cultural influence.

Several Russian lawmakers exacerbated those concerns Tuesday during discussion of the fleet agreement in Moscow. They said it will help protect Russia's cultural and linguistic presence in Ukraine.

Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister, Serhiy Tihipko, told the Associated Press the agreement is good from an economic point of view. But he broke ranks with other leaders, saying the Ukrainian people did not want the deal to be discussed behind closed doors. Opponents prefer membership in the European Union, saying it would lift Ukraine economically and better protect its culture. But the European Union is a distant goal, and analyst Masha Lipman at the Moscow Carnegie Center says Europe has its own problems.

"Europe today is not in great shape and has lots and lots of problems of its own, and does not have a lot of time and energy and funds," said Lipman. "I think the Russian leadership has taken advantage of this opportunity. Also the United States seems to have less interest these days in post-Soviet states."

Mr. Yanukovych raised more controversy Wednesday in Strasbourg. Speaking to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, he reversed his predecessor's designation of the Kremlin's deliberate starvation of millions of Soviet citizens in the 1930's as an act of genocide against Ukraine. That famine, known as the Holodomor, was ordered by Dictator Josef Stalin to break peasant resistance to collectivization of land.

Mr. Yanukovych says his administration believes it would be wrong and unfair to recognize the Holodomor as an act of genocide against one people or another. He says it was a common tragedy of peoples who comprised a single state at that time - the Soviet Union.

Former President Viktor Yushchenko's designation of the Holodomor as genocide soured Kyiv's relations with Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed the Mr. Yanukovych's statement as an objective attitude toward history. It was condemned by those who say Russian speakers replaced millions of murdered Ukrainians, which has continued impact on the viability of Ukraine.

Masha Lipman says Mr. Yanukovych should temper his pursuit of economic goals with recognition of the importance of culture.

"It is not that Ukraine can outlaw the Russian language, or impose the Russian language on regions that are not interested," added Lipman. "Once again, it is a legitimate issue - cultural and of course political issue in Ukraine - and any leader has to reconcile the interests there."

Lipman says Mr. Yanukovych's busy foreign policy agenda appears designed to show international and domestic observers that he is a man in charge. Vitaliy Bala notes Mr. Yanukovych won office with less than 50 percent of the vote and uses foreign policy to legitimize his presidency.

Bala says Ukraine's concessions on enriched uranium for the United States and the Black Sea Fleet agreement for Russia may be seen as Yanukovych's quest for legitimacy. The analyst says, Mr. Yanukovych is trying do demonstrate first of all in Ukraine that he is a president who is welcomed.

Bala recalls that Candidate Yanukovych promised to unite Ukraine. But Mr. Yanukovych's initiatives with Russia have raised questions about his abilities to build consensus.

Writing online about the brawl in Parliament, Ukraine's world heavyweight boxing champion turned politician, Vitaliy Klychko, says it represents the politics of antagonism.

Recently, says Klychko, the "Orange" forces of Yushchenko and Tymoshenko tried to force their views of cooperation with Russia and the West on their opponents. Now, Mr. Yanukovych's "Blue and White" forces are doing the same in reverse.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says 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.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

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