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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

Studies point to possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees 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.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

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