News / Europe

Ukraine Drops Plan to Go West, Turns East

Ukrainian and EU flags are seen before a session of parliament in Kyiv Nov. 21, 2013.
Ukrainian and EU flags are seen before a session of parliament in Kyiv Nov. 21, 2013.
Reuters
Ukraine abruptly abandoned a historic new alliance with its western neighbors on Thursday, halting plans for an imminent trade pact with the European Union and saying it would instead revive talks with Russia.
 
EU officials, who had been preparing to sign the long-negotiated deal at the end of next week, said President Viktor Yanukovych cited fears of losing massive trade with Russia when he told an EU envoy this week that he could not agree to the terms.
 
Yanukovych's prime minister, Mykola Azarov, issued the dramatic order to suspend the process in the interests of “national security” and renew “active dialog” with Moscow. EU officials, who had hoped the president's complaints in recent days were a last-minute bargaining tactic, saw little chance of saving the deal.

Russia welcomes move

Russia, sensing betrayal in the westward pivot of its most populous former Soviet satellite, had threatened retaliation, raising fears it could cut energy supplies in new “gas wars.” The Kremlin welcomed the news of Ukraine's change of heart.
 
EU pressure for Yanukovych to release a jailed opponent whom he sees as a threat to his re-election in 2015 also dogged months of shuttle diplomacy with Ukraine, a country in which Russians see the historic origins of their nation and where many of the 46 million people are native Russian speakers.
 
Ukraine's parliament, dominated by Yanukovych's allies, rejected a series of bills earlier on Thursday that would have satisfied the EU by letting opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko out of prison to travel to Germany for medical treatment.
 
Shortly afterwards Prime Minister Azarov issued the order on suspending the EU process and reviving talks with Russia, other members of a Moscow-led customs union and the former Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States.
 
A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “We welcome the desire to improve and develop trade and economic cooperation.” Ukraine was a “close partner,” he added.
 
European governments, especially those dominated by Moscow during the Cold War, have been keen to anchor Ukraine's bulk and population closer to the West, though others have doubted whether corruption and oppression make it a viable partner.
 
‘Brutal pressure’
 
Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, said the European Union was keen still to improve ties with Ukraine but that it was up to Kyiv to decide. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, a veteran of east-west diplomacy on the continent, was blunter.
 
“Ukraine government suddenly bows deeply to the Kremlin,” he tweeted. “Politics of brutal pressure evidently works.”
 
He added that Ukraine's economy would decline and that the rupture would “kill” Kyiv's prospects for foreign investment.
 
EU officials told Reuters that when Yanukovych met the EU commissioner in charge of relations with Kyiv, Stefan Fuele, on Tuesday, he had said he could not agree to the deal. It would, he said, cost Kyiv $500 billion in trade with Russia over the coming years, while implementing demands for Ukraine to adopt EU legal and other standards would cost another $104 billion.

Deal dead

Some EU diplomats had viewed that stance as brinkmanship, an effort to secure better terms. But on Thursday, after the government order, EU envoy Aleksander Kwasniewski was quoted as telling a Polish news agency that next week's deal was dead.
 
“The agreement will not be signed in Vilnius,” the former Polish president told TVN24.
 
“Our mission is ending. It is a pity that it is ending without a finish like the signing of the agreement,” he said.
 
Ukrainian opposition leader Arseny Yatsenyuk, an ally of Tymoshenko, said that if Yanukovych failed to sign it would be “treason” and provide grounds for the president's impeachment.
 
The 28-member EU had insisted Kyiv carry out democratic reforms including ending “selective justice” - the EU sees Tymoshenko as a political prisoner, irking Yanukovych who narrowly defeated her in the 2010 presidential election.
 
Nonetheless, he had been scheduled to sign the far-reaching free trade and cooperation agreement with the EU at a summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius next Friday, November 29.
 
German Foreign Minister Westerwelle spoke of wishing that Ukraine would share the EU's values and choose a “European path of development” but made clear that was up to Kyiv.
 
“Our interest in good relations with Ukraine is unbroken and our offer of a real partnership still stands,” he said in a statement. “The ball is in Kyiv's court. It is their sovereign right to decide on their path freely.”

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Warren from: US
November 22, 2013 1:12 PM
The EU needs to be patient and farsighted. A relationship based on coercion cannot last. And as Russia continues to de-industrialize, it will be ever more dependent on the imports of industrial goods.

In time, if the EU plays its cards right, Ukraine will export an increasing share of its industrial production west, reducing its dependence on earnings from Russia. At the same time, Russia is bound to become increasingly more dependent on imports, as its own corrupt, inefficient industry continues to disintegrate. Eventually, the tables will shift in Ukraine's favor, and turning its back on Russia will be not only desirable, but also possible.

Probably the only trump card Russia will retain is its energy supply to Ukraine, but even there the Ukrainians have options. The fact that Moscow now charges them near-world market prices means it's no longer a subsidy issue - just security of supply. And were the country to finally liberalize its oil & gas sector, it would not take long for companies from the world over to move in and begin developing the country's vast endowments of hydrocarbons. Never mind shale gas, which Ukraine is expected to have plenty of - the country has significant deposits of coal bed methane, which for all purposes is now a conventional resource, and has great potential for both conventional oil and gas in its offshore.

So, Kiev does not need to resign itself to this fate for ever. With prudent policies, and an open door policy from the EU, the country should be able to extract itself from the serf-like relationship it now endures with Russia. The fact that Putin had to essentially pull all the levers to bring Kiev to heel shows that the Russians know it's just a matter of time before Ukraine is truly free, and want to extract the maximum gains before latching on to another victim.


by: Dr Damekovych from: Ukraine
November 21, 2013 5:01 PM
don't be fooled by this cowardly act... Russia is disintegrating and it would be happy to take Ukraine with it. Ukraine just consigned its future to another 60 years of corruption and misery. the real question in this drama is - where the hell is America??? hey Obama, are you awake...??? do you see what are the implications here...???


by: David
November 21, 2013 3:52 PM
Russia wants to reform the Soviet Union and are using its resources as a negotiating club. Ukraine chose resources over the educational wealth of the EU.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid