YAHOO NEWS by Michael Hammerschlag
choice is stark: whether Ukraine will be locked in a neo-Soviet ghetto of
dependency and corruption for the next several decades, or join the Western
world in greater transparency, freedom, and rule of law.Customs
Union member Belarus has
essentially disappeared as an independent country- they rely on Russia for every
bit of energy, resources, and have even sold them their pipelines in exchange
for fat subsidies; while Kazakhstan has chafed under tariff restrictions and
imperial pressures. EU AA leaning
Pres. Victor Yanukovich -
The road West wouldn't be easy: Russia regards Ukraine as an integral part- as it's heartland, and it's revenge could be near-psychotic: to pressure their little brother they are threatening yet another gas shutoff (the 4th), and already are embargoing chocolate and numerous other products - $50 mil a month of railroad wagons aren't being shipped North, and trailers of goods have been sitting on the border for 2 months: Russia could strangle the Ukrainian economy. But Ukrainians could sell their products to the 350 million people of the EU without tariffs, reap the freedom of world travel, rather than the undergo the current expensive and lengthy EU visa process; and escape the clammy embrace of their longtime fraternal ruler (300 years), who killed 5-7 million in the genocidal Stalinist famine of 1932-33, as well as million s in purges and Gulags.
Sadly, what seemed like a done-deal has collapsed-
the Government said Nov. 21st that they wouldn't sign it.
Shock and dismay across the country and globe greeted the government's reversal.
But for the last 2 weeks, all signs were bad. They simply can't release
Yulia- the Presidents own Party
of Regions chief Yefremov said
he had no intention of voting for any of the 6 bills to send her to Germany for
medical treatment, Yanukovich reported told EU enlargement head Stefan Fule Nov
20 that he wasn't going to sign the PA, he had jetted off to the Moscow for a
semi-secret meeting with Putin to hear his carrots and sticks Nov. 9 as PM
Azarov suddenly claimed requiring Tymoshenko's release was unjustified and
complained, "nobody.. will offer compensation for the loss of this (Russian)
market", they arrested Tymoshenko's lawyer Vlasenko Nov 8 for an alleged assault
that happened in 2008...
they'd already stripped his Parliamentary seat and immunity, and the Rada
(Parliament) passed a bill to prevent popular boxer/ party leader Vitaliy
Klitchko (a German resident) from running for President in 2015. "Either
Yanukovich is losing control of his own Party, or it's a cynical very nuanced
Machiavellian play,' said longtime
Tymoshenko supporter at endless Kreschatuk St. protests ©2011 Michael Hammerschlag --
They also haven't circumscribed the unlimited power of the prosecutor (maybe 1% are found innocent in trials here, and juries barely exist- "persuadable" judges only), they haven't reformed the breathlessly corrupt court or election systems but instead appointed close Yanukovich cronies to run both, they refuse to raise hugely subsidized Soviet level natural gas prices demanded by the IMF for desperately needed loans (people control the central over-heating by always keeping windows open), public support for the EU path has faded to 45% vs only 14% for the Customs Union (another says 58% for, others have it almost even**), the European Bank for Reconstruction + Development head canceled a Nov 5 trip to Kiev to sign an anti-corruption agreement (Ukraine ranks 144 out of 175 countries, behind Russia, Pakistan, and Nigeria byTransparency Int.). The ex-con* President's unknown dentist son 3½ years ago Alexander... is now a half-billionaire, and they are known as The Family.
--battles on Europisky
--battles on Europisky Sq.
The thinking was even the 10 big oligarchs who rule this country as
their personal plaything didn't want to suffer under the Russian yoke- the 110
Russian billionaires are richer and more ruthless, and Putin has not been gentle
with them. "Maybe not", said one connected insider- adjusting to greater
transparency is traumatic; even many companies' ownership here is completely
secret. "Many industrialists …ask 'why should I vote for this (EU)'. We have 77%
of our machine building output going to
-- Heavyweight champion Vitaliy
Kitschko, Oct 2012 ©2012 Michael Hammerschlag
-- Heavyweight champion Vitaliy Kitschko, Oct 2012 ©2012 Michael Hammerschlag
The most amazing example are the raider attacks (only in FSU) where
40-130 thugs with wooden or iron bars invade a business, beat and throw out the
employees, and take it over, armed with the decision of some corrupt regional
judge that they are the owners. It even happened to the $1.2 billion
Ilyich Steel Co., the holder of the foundational documents simply sold them for
$30,000. That was reversed after the whole city of
The thought was meeting EU standards would moderate Ukrainian rapacious tendencies, but there has been little evidence of that- the changes they demanded have been passed in a flurry of last minute bills that few think will be taken too seriously. For already unpopular Yanukovich, the failure of the ballyhooed Association Agreement could be fatal in the 2015 election, but he may have calculated that the economic devastation of a full Russian embargo was worse. Polls show all 3 contenders: heavyweight boxing champion Vitaliy Klitschko, Tymoshenko, and former Rada Speaker Arseny Yatseniuk, beating Yanukovich, though only Klitschko has a real shot- Yanukovich has packed the courts, regions, and election boards with his loyalists. Klitschko is one of the few people in this country untarred by corruption- he has his own fortune- and with the Rada banning of non-residents as Presidential candidates.. he finally formally declared himself running. Tymoshenko is probably destroyed as a political force, and Yatseniuk relatively uncharismatic.
Demonstrations broke out in a dozen cities on August 21, including
Amazingly, for this total betrayal and stunning reversal, the
Yanukovich government got nothing solid from Russia: Azarov claimed they would
renegotiate Gazprom's sky-high gas price- Putin immediately shot that down:
"Gazprom and Ukraine have a contract until 2019", then brutally raised the
pressure and ante for complete capitulation, claiming the total debt to Russia in loans,
gas, etc was $30 billion. "We will work with
-- Heavyweight champion Vitaliy
Kitschko, Oct 2012 ©Michael Hammerschlag
-- Heavyweight champion Vitaliy Kitschko, Oct 2012 ©Michael Hammerschlag
Exhausted by the endless dithering, the EU has still been penurious, offering only $610 million according to Yanukovich, for significant Euro-adjustment expenses when Ukraine would also face brutal reprisals from Russia and stiff competition from Euro producers when tariffs come down (though it's lower cost products offer some protection). Azarov complained, (financially) "We did not get support during the hardest period." Fule disputed that: "We are talking about billions of dollars.. the Association is a measure to .. strengthen financial assistance."
It is tempting to think Ukrainians deserve their fate- they
knew whom they were choosing in Feb
- parody: "Party of Regions celebrates 100 days of a depressed
- parody: "Party of Regions celebrates 100 days of a depressed Yanukovich"
the other hand, with a cheap modern reliable transportation, communication,
utility, and food system,
many Eastern Russian-speakers wanted to join the EU, but time was almost gone
anyway for Ukraine's hopes of joining the world's biggest trading block at $16
trillion- the EU mission returned to Brussels Nov 13 with a presumably bleak
assessment, but the EU Foreign Affairs Committee postponed the Nov 18 vote
whether to proceed with their offer at Vilnius and extended their rapporteurs' mission until Nov. 28th. Stefan Fule
came to put a full-court press on the recalcitrant Ukrainians, and foreign
policy ministers of
President Yanokovich's concerns are only short term- avoiding the
economic devastation of a full scale Russian embargo that would endanger his
reelection in 15 months, and enriching family and friends- when you jail your
predecessor and greatest rival over nothing, losing power is not an option. The outrage over
reneging on the AA, however, may be a greater threat. His
Euro sympathies were always suspect- they didn't jibe with his origin,
personality, and tendencies. In a letter from prison, Tymoshenko sagely
dumping the EU for
Although the EU is concerned about Russian bullying and the prospects
of another huge border state under their thumb, this whole eastern enlargement
is being largely pushed by
-- broken window of front door to occupied City Hall w Svobody nationalist banners 21/1 ©2013 MH
It is likely that the 15 year torturous negotiation is over and
a tragedy for
COMING: YOU SAY YOU WANT A
REVOLUTION - With the astounding uprising everything
COMING: YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION - With the astounding uprising everything is changing
*Yanukovich spent 3 1/2 years in 2 prison stretches for assault and robbery. One victim was beaten unconscious.
** Another Deutsche Welle poll Nov 18 has it 58% for eventual EU membership, 31% against; breaking at 51 years old: older, they are against it, younger, they are for it- diverging proportionally.
Several other polls show an almost even division beween
the 2 opposing plans:
Several other polls show an almost even division beween the 2 opposing plans:
Michael Hammerschlag's articles (HAMMERNEWS.com) have appeared in NYT, IHT, Seattle Times, Providence Journal, Columbia Journalism Review, Hawaii Advertiser, Capital Times, MediaChannel; Moscow News, Tribune, Times, and Guardian, Novaya Gazeta; Kyiv Post & Weekly, Politics in Ukraine, and Business Ukraine. He's spent 8 years over the last 22 in Russia & Ukraine.