News / Europe

Ukraine President Turns his Back on Turmoil, Heads for China

Ukrainians attend a rally at the central Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 2, 2013.
Ukrainians attend a rally at the central Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 2, 2013.
Reuters
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is set to head for China on Tuesday, leaving a country plunged into crisis by his decision to forego a free trade deal with Europe under pressure from Russia.
 
With pro-Europe demonstrators blockading the government's main building in Kyiv, their allies in parliament called for a vote of no confidence in the cabinet on Tuesday over what they say is a lurch back towards Soviet-style rule from Moscow.
 
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said the government could not perform its basic functions which could affect the payment of pensions and salaries.
 
“This has all the signs of a coup d'etat. This is a very serious matter,” Interfax news agency quoted him telling the ambassadors of the European Union, United States and Canada.
 
He accused his opponents of planning to seize parliament, but the opposition said it was just planning to picket deputies before the debate.
 
“Some will picket outside of the cabinet of ministers, others will picket outside parliament, and we are voting for the resignation of the criminal government of Azarov,” far-right nationalist leader Oleh Tyahnybok said on Interfax news agency.
 
Even if the vote were to go ahead, it was unlikely to muster enough support to pass since the opposition parties have far fewer deputies than the 226 needed.
 
In Kyiv's Independence Square protesters, set up tented camps in preparation for a long campaign against Yanukovych's last-minute decision to reject the free trade deal, which had been due to be signed on Friday.
 
The security forces clashed with protesters over the weekend, but the area around parliament was quiet on Monday evening and activists from heavyweight boxing champion-turned- opposition-politician Vitaly Klitschko's party Udar (Punch) said they planned to send only a few people there on Tuesday.
 
On Monday, demonstrators halted traffic and called a general strike, seeking to force Yanukovich from office after about 35,000 people demonstrated at the weekend, the most since the pro-democracy “Orange Revolution” of nine years ago.

  • Protestors wave flags during a protest at Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 2, 2013.
  • Protesters stand on the barricade in Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 2, 2013.
  • Protesters stand on a barricade in Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 2, 2013.
  • Protesters stand in front of Cabinet of Ministers' building in Kyiv, Dec. 2, 2013.
  • Protesters sleep on the floor as others look through a window for police inside Kyiv's city hall, Dec. 1, 2013.
  • A man throws a flare in the direction of Interior Ministry members during a rally held by supporters of EU integration in Kyiv, Dec. 1, 2013.
  • Protesters clash with police outside the presidential office in Kyiv, Dec. 1, 2013.
  • Protesters clash with police at the presidential office in Kyiv, Dec. 1, 2013.

Ukraine's currency and bonds came under pressure, along with share prices, and the central bank was forced to assure people their savings were safe.
 
The United States said violence by the authorities against protesters on Saturday was unacceptable that reports of media representatives being targeted were “disturbing”.
 
Debt Fears
 
With temperatures dropping well below zero, the numbers of protesters have dropped sharply, and Yanukovych clearly felt the security situation was under control when he announced he would stick to a plan to travel on Tuesday to China, from which he is seeking loans and investment to avert a debt crisis.
 
The security forces report to the interior minister, who is a loyal lieutenant of Yanukovich and a close friend of his son.
 
But some felt leaving was unwise nevertheless.
 
“It is a very bad time to go abroad. The president's absence may make talks with the opposition much more difficult,” said Ukrainian political analyst Gleb Vyshlinsky.
 
Russia wants to draw Ukraine into a Moscow-led customs union and prevent it drawing closer to the EU, a move that would signal a historic shift towards the West and away from Kyiv's former Soviet masters in Moscow.
 
But the tug-of-war between Brussels and Moscow for influence in Ukraine has so far done little to alleviate its looming debt crisis and the China visit will involve the signing of at least 20 economic and trade agreements.
 
“Yanukovych is trying to show that the European Union and Russia are not the only possible partners for Ukraine,” said Volodymyr Fesenko of Ukraine's Penta think-tank.
 
However, he said Beijing may now demand assurances over Ukraine's political and economic stability, adding: “Ukraine is unlikely to secure direct financial aid [from China].”
 
Beijing has already provided the former Soviet republic with loans worth $10 billion, but the government must find more than $17 billion in 2014 to meet gas bills and debt repayments.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs