News / Europe

    Russian Pressure Moves Ukraine Closer to the West

    Russian Pressure Moves Ukraine Closer to the Westi
    X
    September 12, 2013 5:57 PM
    Since breaking away from the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine has been struggling with its identity, wavering between Russia and the West. However, with the first post-Soviet generation reaching adulthood, pro-European attitudes in Ukraine appear to be prevailing. In November this year, the European Union and Ukraine are scheduled to sign Association and Free Trade Agreements, which would lead Ukraine to move further from Russia’s sphere of influence. Russia is trying to prevent this development but some experts say its methods are backfiring. VOA's Tatiana Vorozhko explains.
    Since breaking away from the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine has been struggling with its identity, wavering between Russia and the West. However, with the first post-Soviet generation reaching adulthood, pro-European attitudes in Ukraine appear to be prevailing.  In November this year, the European Union and Ukraine are scheduled to sign Association and Free Trade Agreements, which would lead Ukraine to move further from Russia’s sphere of influence. Russia is trying to prevent this development but some experts say its methods are backfiring.

    To sign the Association and Free Trade Agreements with the European Union, the Ukrainian parliament has to adopt legislation to bring the country's laws into compliance with European standards.

    Pro-European former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko sees it as Ukraine's last chance.

    "We will not have this chance in a year, two or 10," he said. "We have many deficiencies, beginning with the election system, law enforcement, the problems of double standards in the rule of law, unprecedented corruption and many others. But all these problems can be only resolved within the context of moving closer to Europe."

    The EU is also demanding an end to politically-motivated prosecutions and the release of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Despite a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that her right to a fair trial was violated, she remains in jail on abuse of power charges.

    Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer says freeing Tymoshenko is crucial.

    "If they are not prepared to do something on Tymoshenko, I think it will be very difficult, from what we are hearing now, to see a majority of EU member-states favoring going ahead and signing an Association Agreement," he said.

    Meanwhile, Russia, which is striving to keep Ukraine in its orbit, is offering an alternative: joining the Customs Union. Ukraine would not need to fulfill any requirements and will enjoy free trade with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and pay lower prices for Russian natural gas.

    In August, Russia blocked imports from Ukraine. Some goods suddenly failed to satisfy Russian safety and quality standards or had other difficulties passing through customs.

    Anders Aslund of the Peterson Institute in Washington sees the move as a form of pressure.

    "Russia is really showing that the chips are down and since about one quarter of Ukrainian trade is with Russia, Russia has a big impact," he said. "Ukraine has been in recession for four quarters with GDP falling 1-2 percent a quarter, the financial [situation] is in the very poor shape. So, President Putin seems decided to get Ukraine down on its knees."

    As a result, Ukrainian politicians called for closer ties with the EU, promising promised to fulfill all requirements as soon as possible. 

    The Europeans were outraged over Russian actions towards its neighbors who seek partnership with Europe.

    "What we have seen during the last few week - brutal Russian pressure against the partnership countries, the sort that we haven`t seen for a very long time," said Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Bildt. "I think to the certain extent they are doing this because all the world attention on Syria, they don`t think that will be that much noticed. That`s why it is important we bring it up here."

    Russian influence over Ukraine is not limited to trade. It has a strong political, media and religious presence.

    Kennan Institute head Matthew Rojanski believes that Russia will continue to exert its influence over Ukrainian politics even after the Association Agreement is signed.

    "It does give me concern that even if Ukraine has an Association Agreement with Europe, even if the Ukrainian economy grows consistently, education becomes more widespread and people have more ties to the West, as well as to the East, that potential to interfere in a destructive way in the development of the Ukrainian nation-state is always going be there, or is going to be there for long enough that that development will be dysfunctional," said Rojanski.

    Despite this, many Ukrainians seem ready for their country to move closer to Europe.

    According to the most recent poll, 41 percent of Ukrainians support joining the EU and 31 percent are in favor of the Customs Union.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora