News / Europe

Ukraine’s Future Path May Hinge on One Bitter Political Rivalry

Supporters of jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko chat in a protest tent camp in central Kiev on Oct. 7, 2013.
Supporters of jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko chat in a protest tent camp in central Kiev on Oct. 7, 2013.
James Brooke
To hear Russian President Vladimir Putin say it, Russia and its biggest neighbor, Ukraine, are “one people.”
“We have common traditions, a common mentality, a common history and a common culture. We have very similar languages,” he said last month at the Valdai Discussion Club, the Kremlin’s annual meeting with Western thinkers. “In that respect, I want to repeat again, we are one people.”
Russia’s leader makes this argument because Ukraine and neighboring Moldova are at a historic crossroads: join a free trade pact with the European Union next month - or join President Putin’s Moscow-based Eurasian Union. For Moscow, a lot is at stake: after Russia, Ukraine is the second largest of the 15 former republics of the Soviet Union.
Russia faces an uphill battle. All of Ukraine’s major political parties and its three Orthodox Christian denominations favor going with the West.

Moving westward
So, Moscow recently gave Ukraine a taste of the penalties it faces for moving westward. The Kremlin tightened customs controls, threatened higher gas prices, and warned that Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine could secede and join Russia.
Here is President Putin again on Ukraine’s future outside his Eurasian Union:  “If we introduce such limitations, these companies - and perhaps whole industries - will then face severe problems. That’s what we’re talking about, that’s what we’re warning about. We are doing so in good faith and in advance, without in any way encroaching on [Ukraine’s] sovereign right to take a foreign policy decision."
Political scientist Olexiy Haran at Kyiv Mohyla University says this tough talk is backfiring on the Kremlin.
“The Ukrainian elite, including President [Viktor] Yanukovych, does not want to be swallowed by Russia,” he said from Kyiv. “And they understand the danger of being too close to Russia.”
Now the major obstacle to Ukrainians realizing their dream of association with Europe is President Yanukovich’s decade-long political feud with opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

Yanukovich's "devil"
Tymoshenko, with her trademark golden peasant’s braid, is the darling of some Europeans. But she is the devil to Ukraine’s president. He narrowly lost to her coalition in the 2005 presidential election, and narrowly beat her in the 2010 presidential election. The next year, she was convicted of embezzlement and abuse of power and sentenced to seven years in jail.
Now the EU says: Free Yulia, or no trade deal.
Germany says it will take her in. Tymoshenko says she will go. Last  week, a pro-Yanukovych newspaper carried a Tymoshenko photo with the headline: “Guten Tag, Berlin!”
But Yanukovych fears that Tymoshenko will return to Ukraine to run against him in the 2015 presidential election.
“He is afraid of Tymoshenko,” Haran said. “If she is freed, then she is able to participate in political struggle, in political life in Ukraine, and then potentially run in presidential  campaign.”
One formula calls for Ukraine’s President sending Tymoshenko to Germany for medical treatment, but not pardoning her.

Stumbling block
Oleksandr Sushko, research director of the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, says that the only stumbling block between the EU and Ukraine is Tymoshenko’s continued imprisonment.
“There is no guarantee of freeing of Yulia Tymoshenko,” he said “And, there is no guarantee for signing of the Association Agreement with the EU - just because of this.”
He says there is no guarantee that she will be freed. He predicts the horse trading will continue right up to the November 27-28 EU summit in Lithuania.

Until then, the future path of Ukraine - east or west - depends on a bitter rivalry between two politicians.

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Comment Sorting
by: Bob from: UK
October 14, 2013 9:09 AM
The whole notion of the EU wanting to better Ukraine is pure hyperbole the only reason the EU wants the Ukraine is because of the idea of Russia gaining a foothold. Ukraine is very much like Russia, Europe is much different to Ukraine. To think Ukraine could just be simply bolted onto the EU is pure stupidity. Their industrial fabric is very much in twinned with Russian industry, their industries are one of the same. If this is allowed to happen the East part of Ukraine and the Crimea will break free of this anti-Russian agenda. The Ukraine billionaires are scared of losing their billions. It's not about the people it's about elitist Ukrainians caring more about themselves than the country. If this sinister EU courtship is allowed then the breakup of Ukraine will be the outcome. If that truly what these greedy elitist billionaires want. To ruin industry and just be another market for German made goods etc. It's a one way street. Ukraine belongs with it's close brother. Not an interloper.

by: Donetsk dream from: Ukraine Donetsk
October 14, 2013 3:47 AM
I dont believe that the EU care about Ukraine ... they only care to market German and French goods in Ukraine, like they are doing in Bulgaria and Romania . If Ukrainians are ready to pay up to 100 Euro per month for electricity and more than 200000 families in Ukraine are ready to lose them jobs, and to to have more extra taxes to pay every month than you are ready for the EU . And if you think that Germany and French and Italy will run to buy Ukrainians good than you are naive

by: Anonymous
October 13, 2013 12:55 PM
Ukraine is not Russia.

by: Tom hrynkiw from: lviv Ukraine
October 13, 2013 12:53 AM
It is of no surprise that negative comments would come from Ukrainians that left Ukraine most likely nownliving in van. Canada
I can't call them Ukrainians and if I did , only by DNA
Don't forget they ran away from our country it's great there gone
As for me I think I'm the first to give up a Canadian passport and become Ukrainian
To build a better ukraine
In the three years now here I can say I have helped
All I here from ukrainians there in the west is "how bad the Ukrainian government is "
on contrary it is in a hard place. For anyone to be
Or any government
This current president has kept an incredible balance between the old and new ways with many people trying to force there ways on him
He has done much to improve things here amidst his enemies
And kept them aloft tactfully
He has lost much of his original power I can only pray that all Ukrainians give him strength to carry on
I wasn't a supporter of him rather my roots come from west Ukraine
But only when we realize that this beautiful country is ours.
Will we protect it from the north,west and all who just want to use Ukraine and in the end spit it out
So help us build this great country, think of positive things for us
The time is now that we need all Ukrainians to help
If you want to invest here and build here as I have done, then do it
I can help you
But everybody needs to stand up for Ukraine and the ruling government and help them help them selves
Only then can they say no to all the terrible influences around them

by: byron hill from: san francisco
October 12, 2013 8:38 PM
"Mankind" is one. Vladmir is a fool to believe otherwise. Russia is and always has been a Thug Nation, as is Ukraine. If a Russian expat living in UA wants a Russian culture, then the door is wide open.... go home. Moscow will continue to rape and pillage it's neighbors, this is her history. The majority of Ukrainians want their country back. Ukrainians want to be a sovereign nation but have discovered after 20 years of independence that all roads of corruption begin and end in Moscow. The Ukrainian can never realize what freedom is until this cancer is cut free. Once UA is disconnected from Moscow's corruption, then she can rid her own house of Russian remnants.

by: Valentyna from: Vancouver
October 12, 2013 7:10 AM
As a First Generation of Displaced Persons from Ukraine, there are issues I totally agree with President Putin. He is correct that we are one people, one culture and more important of all is that we are all historically descended from the same people.

I pray that Ukraine does not join the EU - it will be biggest mistake she makes and her downfall. The EU has nothing to offer. I still have a very large extended family all across Ukraine and none of the older generation want this union, they do not want to be americanised.
In Response

by: Volodya from: Canada
October 13, 2013 12:11 AM
Which only tells me that you're brainwashed by centuries of Russian domination. Time to dump the second class "Little Russian" mentality, and join the world. Having lived in the Americas and western Europe, and visited Ukraine many times, and Russia as well, anyone who is willing to settle for what Russia has to offer has to be a little bit off their rocker. Ukraine needs to only look at Poland, and the Baltic states to see how far they have left the embrace of "Big Brother" and joined the civilized rest of the world. Time for Ukraine to do the same.

by: Keen from: Philippines
October 12, 2013 4:27 AM
I guess Ukraine's President Yanukovych is facing a great dilemma at this point...I believe that it's really hard for a man of his position to decide whether to secure his political career or secure Ukraine's future...He should weigh things carefully and choose wisely not just for his benefit and personal gain for the better welfare of Ukrainians...

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