Books on Ukraine
Update No: 333 - (25/09/08)
The times are very critical indeed for Ukrainians. Russia's
invasion of Georgia in August some fear puts Ukraine on the line as next in the
As if that was not enough to worry about, a first-class political crisis has
blown up at the beginning of autumn.
As coalition collapses, new poll looms
Ukraine was in mid-September facing the prospect of further political
instability and its sixth election in four years after the pro-western coalition
formally collapsed on September 16. The government was made up of parties loyal
to Ukraine's president, Viktor Yushchenko, and his 2004 Orange revolution
partner, prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. It fell apart after months of bitter
quarrelling between the leaders.
The nine-month-old coalition's collapse is a major setback, and comes amid
rising tensions with Russia over the war in Georgia and Ukraine's attempts to
join NATO. Its politicians are split between those who condemn the Kremlin's
invasion of Georgia, led by Yushchenko, and others including Timoshenko who
believe Ukraine should be cautiously "neutral" in its dealings with
However, the collapse has little to do with resisting Russia or integrating with
the West - it is about who holds power. Yushchenko and Tymoshenko are likely to
be rivals in presidential elections in early 2010.
"I officially announce the termination of the democratic coalition in the
Verkhovna rada [lower house]," parliamentary speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk told
MPs. "It is yet another democratic challenge, but I hope that together we
will overcome the challenge."
The parliament now has 30 days until mid-October to form a new coalition.
However, indications suggest that Tymoshenko was unlikely to form an alliance
with the opposition Party of the Regions - making elections almost inevitable.
Wheels within wheels
The coalition split earlier in September after Tymoshenko's bloc and the Party
of the Regions, led by the former prime minister Viktor Yanukovich, voted to
strip Yushchenko of several powers. The president accused her of staging a
The feud is further linked to which leader controls lucrative pipeline revenue
on oil and gas shipped through Ukraine from Russia. "It's not about being
pro-Western or pro-Russian. It's about who gets to sit on the pipe," one
official remarked on September 16.
"Tymoshenko is only interested in what serves her. She wants a monopoly on
power. She was pro-Western when she needed the West's support. Now she is trying
to be pro-Russian."
Yushchenko accused Tymoshenko of betraying Ukraine's interests, and suggested
voters would not forgive her. He also claimed the Kremlin was trying to promote
"internal instability", and aiding separatists in Crimea who wanted to
return the ethnic Russian region to Moscow's control.
“For some of our partners, instability in Ukraine is like bread and
butter," he said in an Associated Press interview, suggesting Moscow was
stirring up separatists on the volatile Crimean Peninsula, where Russia's Black
Sea Fleet is based.
He said Ukraine wouldn't allow itself to be drawn into a war in the way he said
Georgia had in the summer when Russian troops responded to a Georgian attack on
South Ossetia by occupying large swaths of its territory. "Will they
[Russia] repeat the Georgian scenario?" he asked. "For sure, no."
The political turmoil sets the stage for a month of intense talks during which a
new coalition must be formed. Failing that, the president has the right but not
the obligation to call parliamentary elections. He has said he will call the
vote, though opponents say he is bluffing, pointing to his dwindling popular
Polls suggest Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party would be wise to avoid an election.
According to a recent one, Tymoshenko's party would get 24%, the Party of
Regions 23% and his bloc less than 4%.