News / Europe

Torn Between East and West, Ukraine Debates Future

Torn Between East and West, Ukraine Debates Futurei
X
November 29, 2013 7:11 PM
As European leaders try to persuade Ukraine to sign on to a trade deal, its people face an uncertain future. After decades of Soviet rule followed by a high degree of economic dependence on Russia, Ukranians are nervous about antagonizing Moscow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
VIDEO: While contemplating trade deal with European Union, Ukrainians fear alienating Russia. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more from Kyiv.
Henry Ridgwell
The European Union criticized Russia for pressuring Ukraine into abandoning a landmark free trade deal with the EU in favor of strengthening ties with Moscow. 
 
EU leaders expressed frustration with Russia on Friday, the final day of a two-day EU summit in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, that was expected to mark the signing of the agreement.

But Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych told the summit Ukraine needs economic and financial support from the European Union before Kyiv can sign the trade deal. Russia has denied exerting political and economic pressure on Ukraine to delay the signing.
 
Despite heavy pressure from Russia, two other former Soviet republics, Georgia and Moldova, initialed political and trade agreements with the EU at the summit.

As European leaders try to persuade Ukraine to sign on to the trade deal, its people face an uncertain future.
 
EU President Herman van Rompuy said he hoped Ukraine would sign the deal "sooner or later," and that there will be ongoing dialogue with Kyiv on the agreement to expand a free trade zone between the EU and Ukraine.
 
But after decades of Soviet rule followed by a high degree of economic dependence on Russia, Ukranians are nervous about antagonizing Moscow. 

Strong ties

Zhernklyovy is a remote Ukrainian village still firmly influenced by Russia and its past. Stark monuments to Soviet war victories occupy the higher ground; among them, a full-sized replica of a fighter jet, pointing to the sky.

Nearby is another monument commemorating the 1933 Great Famine. Millions of Ukrainians starved to death under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s program of collectivization.

The mayor of the village, Grigory Timofiyovych, says that history is not forgotten.

"Everyone condemns what happened in 1933 but they connect it to Stalin," Timofiyovych said through an interpreter. "Nobody holds modern Russia guilty."

  • A Soviet-era monument in Zhernklyovy village, eastern Ukraine, Nov. 29, 2013. (Henry Ridgwell for VOA)
  • Zhernklyovy village, eastern Ukraine, Nov. 29, 2013. (Henry Ridgwell for VOA)
  • Zhernklyovy village, eastern Ukraine, Nov. 29, 2013. (Henry Ridgwell for VOA)
  • Corn fields in Zhernklyovy village, eastern Ukraine, Nov. 29, 2013. (Henry Ridgwell for VOA)
  • Grigory Timofiyovych, they mayor of Zhernklyovy village, eastern Ukraine, Nov. 29, 2013. (Henry Ridgwell for VOA)

Horse-drawn carts and Russian-built tractors ply Zhernklyovy’s potholed roads. Much of the agricultural producepotatoes and cornis traded with Russia.

Timofiyovych says people fear turning away from Ukraine’s big neighbor to the east.

"The economy is suffering," he said. "We already have strong ties with Russia. We can’t break those ties and go with the European Union. Perhaps people do have a better standard of life in the EU, but breaking ties with Russia would not be right."

Local farmer Igor is among the few people venturing out into a biting north wind. He agrees that now is not the time to abandon Russia; but, he says, European integration is Ukraine’s destiny.

"For me now personally, I don’t need Europe," he said. "But, for my children...yes, they definitely need to be part of it."

  • Police stand guard in front of protesters during a demonstration in support of EU integration at Independence Square in Kyiv, Nov. 29, 2013.
  • Police stand guard in front of protesters during a demonstration in support of EU integration at Independence Square in Kyiv Nov. 29, 2013.
  • A view of a rally in support of integration with the European Union, as a supporter waves a European flag from a building top in Kyiv, Nov. 29, 2013.
  • Students form a human chain from the Ukrainian capital to the western border during a demonstration in support of EU integration at Independence Square in Kyiv, Nov. 29, 2013.
  • People warm themselves by a fire in a steel drum during a rally in support of Ukraine's integration with the European Union in Kyiv, Nov. 28, 2013.
  • Ukrainian Opposition Party protesters hold posters of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in front of the Cabinet of Ministers in Kyiv, Nov. 27, 2013.
  • Vitali Klitschko, WBC heavyweight boxing champion and chairman of the Ukrainian opposition party Udar, raises his arms as he and another opposition leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, try to gain entry to the Cabinet of Ministers in Kyiv, Nov. 27, 2013.
  • People warm themselves at fires made in steel drums after a meeting to support EU integration at European Square in Kyiv, Nov. 26, 2013.
  • Protesters demand Ukraine sign a trade deal with the European Union, European Square, Kyiv, Nov. 26, 2013. (Henry Ridgwell for VOA)
  • Protesters wear gas masks during a demonstration to support EU integration in Kyiv, Nov. 25, 2013.
  • Protesters clash with riot police during a rally to support EU integration in Kyiv, Nov. 25, 2013.


Hundreds of kilometers west in a hot basement gym in downtown Kyiv, the tension is palpable at the Ukraine junior boxing trials. Young athletes have come from across the country.

The winners will go on to represent Ukraine and maybe emulate national hero Vitali Klitschko, the reigning World Boxing Council heavyweight champion and Ukrainian opposition politician who supports closer ties with the European Union.

Oleg Skriplenko, 16, is not sure where his country’s future should lie. Oleg says he wants, first of all, Ukraine to be independent. 

"On the one hand, going with Europe is right, as we would get visa-free travel," he said. "But, on the other hand, everything will be turned upside down and it’s possible the economy will really suffer."

In the streets outside, thousands of young people gather for another night of demonstrations in Kyiv. The protesters here fear Ukraine has let an opportunity slip away, and with it, their future in Europe.

“We come today to present our opinion about Ukraine entering the European Union," said student Andrey Maximif. "We believe that if we will get the chance, we will live better, we will have a better chance for democracy in Ukraine.”

From the cities to the windswept plains, Ukraine’s future is being debated more than ever. The dilemma: whether to forge a new path or to stick with the old partner to the east.

You May Like

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Maxym from: Ukraine
November 30, 2013 8:41 AM
I’m following https://www.facebook.com/emaidanua and they write that children and women were fight tonight at Euromaidan in Ukraine. Is it true?

In Response

by: Mayeur Alex from: Kiev
November 30, 2013 10:02 PM
Unfortunately yes it's true... Many many policemen are on

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid