News / Europe

Ukrainians Protest Decision to Back Away from EU Pact

Activists wave European Union flags during a rally in support of Ukraine's integration with the European Union in the center of Lviv, Western Ukraine, Nov. 22, 2013.
Activists wave European Union flags during a rally in support of Ukraine's integration with the European Union in the center of Lviv, Western Ukraine, Nov. 22, 2013.
James Brooke
— In the East-West tug of war in Ukraine, Moscow seems to have won an unexpected victory, with Ukraine’s government deciding not to sign a free trade and political association pact with the European Union.
 
Ukrainians protested Friday their government’s surprise decision to back away from signing a free trade and political association agreement with the EU.

In parliament, pro-Western politicians booed Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and threw papers at him.

After street protests in Kyiv and five other cities, a mass rally is planned for Sunday in the nation’s capital.
 
Protesters said that Prime Minister Azarov and President Victor Yanukovych had caved in to Russian pressure after recent closed door meetings with their Russian counterparts.
 
From the Czars to the Soviets, Ukraine’s economy has been tightly intertwined with Russia’s economy. Twenty-two years after Ukraine won independence, Russia remains the nation’s largest foreign investor and foreign trading partner.
 
With the EU offering Ukraine a free trade agreement, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called for an end to what he called “gas communism” with Ukraine. He meant that Ukraine should start paying its nearly $1 billion natural gas bill to Russia or face a cutoff of gas supplies - just as winter starts.
 
Russia also imposed restrictions on goods imported from Ukraine, which Russian President Vladimir Putin defended as giving Ukraine a taste of the economic pain it would feel if it went with the EU.
 
Because of these restrictions, Ukrainian exports dropped by 25 percent, dragging the economy into a recession. As Ukraine’s economy shrank by 1.3 percent this year, Russia’s economic sanctions heavily hit eastern Ukraine, the government’s power base.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Azarov said that Ukraine’s top priority now is to repair economic relations with Russia.
 
This comes as a shock to many Ukrainians accustomed to hearing government officials say Ukraine’s future is with Europe.
 
Ukrainian journalist Sergei Vysotsky criticized his president.
 
“Are you so weak that you cannot resist Russia?" asked Vysotsky.
 
In this East-West tug of war over Ukraine, Europe is crying foul.
 
Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said Ukraine is unexpectedly walking away from “the most ambitious agreement the EU has ever offered to a partner country.”
 
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted: “Ukraine government suddenly bows deeply to Kremlin. Politics of brutal pressure evidently works.”
 
In response, President Putin said Friday that European Union countries had threatened to orchestrate anti-Russian protests in Ukraine.
 
"This is what pressure and blackmail actually is," said Putin.
 
Next week,  Yanukovych is to attend the EU summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. There, two other former Soviet republics - Moldova and Georgia - are to initial trade pacts with the EU. A third, Armenia, buckled under Russian pressure in September. It agreed to join Moscow’s rival Eurasian Economic Union.
 
Officially, the EU still maintains its “open doors” policy to Ukraine. EU envoys made 26 trips to Ukraine over the last 18 months.
 
Now, the European Union may be suffering from Yanukovych fatigue. The EU may decide to wait until Ukraine’s March 2015 presidential elections to see if a truly pro-Western candidate wins.
 
Meanwhile,  Yanukovych has not said he will join Russia’s rival trade pact.
 
But Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s ambassador to the EU, warned: “The comfortable life of sitting in two chairs is coming to an end.”
 
Perhaps the biggest question now facing Ukraine is whether its leader can continue to follow a third path, avoiding making a real choice between East and West.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Janusz from: Kyiv
December 03, 2013 8:48 PM
Dear James Brooke,
Thanks for your efforts to give more light on the Ukrainian protests against President Yanukovich and his gang.
But please do not announce the fabricated-by-MIA-minister-Zakharchenko info on the 170 injured policemen in Kyiv. It is lie and farce. No one of them is injured. There were only orchestrated and provoking fights between police in their regular cloth outfit and police dressed in civil cloth like ordinary citizens. This was done to justify further massacre against protesters. Please be more legible and attentive when announcing such information.


by: Spark from: Spain
November 22, 2013 3:32 PM
Yanukovich is a criminal trash, foam on the wave of Ukranian history, will be swept away, like other garbage - Lenin and Stalin regime. Nothing will stop Ukraine from being member of European family.


by: Babeouf from: Ireland
November 22, 2013 2:15 PM
'in the East-West tug of war in Ukraine, Moscow seems to have won an unexpected victory,' It was only unexpected by the Western media. Those who looked at the economic situation of Ukraine ,its governments debts that needed re-financing in 2014 and Russia's economic leverage via imports thought it quiet unlikely the deal would be signed. But as is normal in the Western media once Russia entered the story those outcomes considered harmful to the Russian regime were the only ones considered.

In Response

by: James Brooke from: Moscow
November 23, 2013 2:35 AM
Babeouf,
Actually my story of one week earlier said that Yanukovych's decision looked too close to call:http://www.voanews.com/content/will-ukraine-go-west-or-stay-east/1790305.html
Apparently, the Russia sanctions targeted companied owned by Yanukovych supporters in Eastern Ukraine. Successful strategy, at least in the short term

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid