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

    Video For Many US Veterans, the Vietnam War Continues

    More than 40 years after it ended, war in Vietnam and America’s role in it continue to provoke bitter debate, especially among those who fought in it

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    100 immigrants graduated Friday as US citizens in New York, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in cities across country

    Family's Fight Pays Off With Arlington Cemetery Burial Rights for WASPs

    Policy that allowed the Women Airforce Service Pilots veterans to receive burial rites at Arlington had been revoked in 2015

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora