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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs