News / Europe

Despite Protests, Ukraine's President Meets Putin on Pact

  • Ukrainian police officers stand in line during protests in Kyiv, Dec. 6, 2013. 
  • Kyiv's City Hall is now an organizational hub for protesters who have occupied the building, Dec. 6, 2013.
  • Protesters rest inside Kyiv's City Hall building, Dec. 6, 2013.
  • Supporters of Ukrainian EU integration sing and wave flags during a protest in front of the Ukrainian cabinet of ministers building in Kyiv,  Dec. 6, 2013. 
  • Protesters eat at their tent camp in Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 5, 2013.
  • Protesters drum on empty barrels as they rally in front of a government building in Kyiv, Dec. 5, 2013.
  • A man wrapped in a Ukrainian flag distributes tea to protesters at Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 4, 2013.
  • A man carrying a Ukrainian flag gestures as he stands on top of a bridge overlooking Independence Square, Kyiv, Dec. 4, 2013.
  • Protesters clash with police during a demonstration in support of EU integration in Kyiv, Dec. 3, 2013.
  • Police stand guard over protesters in front of parliament during a demonstration in support of EU integration, Dec. 3, 2013.

Protests in Kyiv

Reuters
— Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich met Russia's Vladimir Putin on Friday to lay the grounds for a new “strategic partnership” to shore up Ukraine's creaking economy in defiance of protesters back home enraged by his U-turn away from Europe.
 
The leaders met in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in Russia, after Yanukovich flew in for an unannounced stop on his way back from China to map out a new agreement on trade and economic cooperation, a statement on Yanukovich's official website said.
 
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov told journalists Yanukovich would visit Moscow at some point in the future and sign a large number of documents. “We are talking about a major agreement here,” Azarov said though he gave no precise details of the outline deal.
 
Yanukovich faces turmoil in Kyiv, where protesters are massed on Independence Square and others occupy City Hall, furious at Yanukovich for walking away last month from a landmark pact on trade and integration with the European Union. Police have threatened to crack down harshly to enforce a court order that they disperse.
 
Ukraine needs help to meet $17 billion in debt repayments and Russian gas bills next year.
 
Analysts say Yanukovich's government appears to have struck a bargain with Putin, including for supplies of cheaper Russian gas and possibly credits, in exchange for backing away from the EU deal which would have heralded a historic shift westwards.
 
But the Sochi talks will lend ammunition to the Ukrainian opposition, which accuses Yanukovich of betraying the national interest by turning the clock back and forging closer economic ties with Ukraine's old Soviet master.
 
The stand-off is taking a toll on the fragile economy. The central bank has twice been forced to support the hryvnia currency this week and the cost of insuring Ukraine's debt against default has risen further.
 
Ukraine's dwindling currency reserves have particularly sparked alarm among investors. Intervention to support the hryvnia, repayments to the IMF and on treasury bills pushed these reserves further down by nine percent in November to $18.8 billion, the central bank said on Friday - less than that needed to cover two and a half months of imports.
 
Former economy minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, one of the opposition leaders, warned of even bigger protests if Yanukovich signed any agreement with Putin on the Russian-led customs union which Moscow wants Ukraine to join.
 
“If Yanukovich tries to sign anything with Russia about the customs union it will lead to a bigger wave of protests,” Yatsenyuk told journalists.
 
In Kyiv, several hundred demonstrators manned a protest camp on Independence Square as the opposition pressed for the resignation of the government, the release of jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and the prosecution of the interior minister for being behind an earlier crackdown on protesters.
 
Tymoshenko's daughter, Yevgenia, told reporters her mother had ended a 12-day hunger strike, launched in solidarity with the protesters, at the behest “of the square”.
 
Opposition leaders, also including world heavweight boxing champion-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko, urged people to turn out for another rally in central Kyiv on Sunday.
 
Default risk
 
A separate, smaller, group of protesters milled around in the corridors and staircases of City Hall on Friday despite the strongly worded threat from police to eject them.
 
“We have an evacuation plan,” said a 30-year-old trader, who was part of the protesters' security staff and gave his name only as Igor. “If they come at us, we will be able to hold them long enough to be able to get the women, children and the weakest men out of the building,” he said.
 
“We won't let them take the building back. We will resist to the end. We are not hindering anyone. The employees here are working normally,” added a 22-year-old Kyiv student, also called Igor.
 
Klitschko, who seems to be emerging as an agreed opposition candidate to take on Yanukovich in an election in 2015, warned authorities that any attempt to clear the large crowds from Independence Square would lead to a country-wide revolt.
 
“If the authorities try to disperse people from the [Independence] Square, then you will see rising up not 100,000 or 500,000 Ukrainians but the whole country,” he declared in a statement on his party's website.
 
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, angered at Kyiv's Nov. 21 decision to abandon the deal with the EU, poured on to the streets last Sunday after many people - a lot of them young students - were hurt in police action.
 
Though the government later apologized, Azarov returned to the attack on Thursday, labeling those holding public buildings like the mayor's office “nazis, extremists and criminals.”
 
He has rejected calls for his dismissal and an opposition call for early elections. His first deputy, Serhiy Arbuzov, who appeared to say on Thursday he supported snap elections, denied this on Friday, saying his words had been “twisted”.
 
The Ukrainian state and companies will struggle to repay the $7 billion of debt maturing next year, while doubts are growing as to how long the central bank's meager reserves can stave off a currency collapse.
 
“We think that default risk is being seriously under-estimated,” Timothy Ash, the head of emerging markets strategy at Standard Bank, said in a note to clients.
 
The International Monetary Fund has suspended negotiations with Ukraine for a new bail-out program, leaving the government to hunt for economic relief elsewhere.
 
The crisis has exposed a gulf between Ukrainians, many from the West of the country, who hope to move rapidly into the European mainstream, and those mainly from the East who look to  Moscow as a guarantor of stability.
 
In the city of Kharkiv, a court hearing in a new prosecution against Tymoshenko - whom many demonstrators regard as their leader - was put off again because of her non-attendance due to back trouble.
 
The EU considers Tymoshenko, the peasant-braided politician who co-led the “Orange Revolution” protests of 2004-5, a political prisoner and campaigned in vain for her release before Kyiv broke off negotiations.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid