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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee 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.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid