EU Australia Online - News & information from the capital of Europe direct to Australian businesses

Ending 2013: Ukraine Crisis, Russia and the EU …

  • December 19th, 2013
  • Posted by EU Australia

Kiev demonstration 2013Irruptions in Ukraine have once again highlighted the country’s problem of trying to decide on its destiny, while living with the fact that it can’t escape its larger neighbours.TRIP TO MOSCOW

This time, President Viktor Yanukovych went off to Moscow to sign a highly useful economic deal on 17.12.13, with President Vladimir Putin, who has been wanting to prevent Ukraine linking up with the European Union.

Mr Putin, harbouring ideas about rolling back loss of Russian grandeur since the days of the Soviet Union, was generous: Ukraine will get debt relief, the Russians buying up US$15-billion worth, and a huge cut, 34%, in the price of dramatically needed Russian industrial gas; all without Ukraine having to join the customs union being built up by the Putin administration.


Ukraine EU mapThe deal has stirred new anger within the Ukrainian public, now out on the streets in huge numbers, lamenting a missed opportunity being offered by the EU; and venting resentments against their government in power.

It proposed close ties, with free trade and political association, a clear step towards taking the former Soviet republic into the fold of 28 member states; with obvious and definite long-term economic benefits.

This was set up for ratification at a summit in Vilnius on 29.11.13, with the EU side demanding some prior commitments from the other side: changes to its electoral system and system of justice.


tymoshenkoThat may not have penetrated the sensitivities of Viktor Yanukovych  except that it was clearly a comment on his own election  in 2010, and against the treatment of the former Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko (picture) and one of her Ministers Yuriy Lutsenko; both in prison over much-contested charges of malpractice while in office. See EUAustralia Online, Ukraine: Yulia Tymoshenko – seven years gaol, 12.10.11.


Still speaking of accepting the integration with the European Union, in the event he did not deliver reforms as demanded and the signing did not take place.

The President’s shifting position has exacerbated the divisions in the country; between its ethnic Russian, and Russian-speaking side in the East, and its far more European-orientated  ‘Ukrainian’ West; and put another way, between those who backed the ‘Orange revolution’ of  2004-5, which put out, for the duration, Yanukovych  and his hold-over administration from Soviet times.

The revolutionary movement, as happens, split while in office; Viktor Yanukovych made his come-back, defeating Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko for the presidency in 2010. Charges were leveled against her, in connection with gas contracts said to be disadvantageous to the country, and she was gaoled by the end of 2011, for seven years.


Outside forces including the EU, seeing the political elements in the case, have unsuccessfully applied pressure for her release, or for permission for her to be taken out of the country, to receive medical treatments.

The initiative has passed to citizens: to stay with the government of the day, and Russia; or to push for change, and if they can get the numbers, re-effect something like the revolution of the last decade.

As 2013 ends, the President of the European Commission , Jose Manuel Barroso has reiterated that the Association Agreement remains available for signing; Ukraine has signed on for closer cooperation with Russia; street protests in Kiev and elsewhere have continued.


Analysis of this week’s machinations in Ukraine, by The Economist, sees the Ukraine President as the man holding the cards right now; hardly intending to give the EU what they had proposed, nor giving the Russians all that they wanted:

“Russia agreed to lend Ukraine $15 billion and to slash the gas price from $400 to $268 per thousand cubic metres, as a reward for Mr Yanukovych’s ditching of an association agreement with the EU. Unsurprisingly, the mix of money and political cover for theft and violence proved more enticing to Mr Yanukovych than the EU offer of the rule of law, free trade, competition and reform.

“Yet look closer, and Mr Putin’s victory and Europe’s loss seem less obvious. Probably Mr Yanukovych never intended to sign an agreement with the EU—certainly not without being paid for it. By keeping up the pretence, he was able to bargain with Mr Putin, who has now agreed to provide money without Mr Yanukovych having signed a deal to join his Eurasian customs union.

“And neither Mr Yanukovych nor Mr Putin nor EU leaders factored in the response of Ukrainians, who have been pouring into the streets for the past four weeks. Angered by Mr Yanukovych trading the country’s future for his own benefit, they were bolstered when he used violence against students. What started as a modest-sized street action demanding a deal with the EU has turned into a national awakening and vocal rejection of a kleptocratic post-Soviet state. After Mr Yanukovych’s futile attempt to clear the streets on December 11th, the barricades grew higher, the spirit on Maidan became more resolute and the split within the Ukrainian elite became more visible. The crisis has turned Mr Yanukovych into a lame duck.”


The Economist, London, “Russia and Ukraine, Putin’s expensive victory: Under its current government, Ukraine may be a prize not worth winning”, 21.12.13., (18.12.13).

Fred Weir, “Putin tosses a lifeline to Yanukovych as Ukraine seethes”, Christian Science Monitor, Boston, 17.12.13., (18.12.13).


Pictures, map  Wikipedia