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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 49,537 41,380 37,600 55
GNI per capita
 US $ 970 770 720 137
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Ukraine

Update No: 351 - (27/03/10)

Moscow recidivus
Ukraine held properly regulated parliamentary elections in March, a very Western thing to do, it might be thought. It led, however, to a victory for the pro-Russian party, the Party of the Regions, led by Viktor Yanukovich, and a new coalition and rapprochement with the powers-that-be in Moscow.

Under the old rules of forming a coalition, parties in parliament had to agree as a whole to join a coalition. Parliament voted to change that to allow individual members of parties to join a coalition in the hope of making up an overall majority. Thus the attractions of power over loyalty to party.

Yanukovich's supporters in parliament found themselves in a difficult position after his election victory as they were unable to woo enough parties to form a new coalition that would oust Julia Tymoshenko, the pro-Westerner PM at the time. But after the rules change, they were able to muster a slender majority of 235 members from the 450-seat assembly by poaching several supporters of former president Viktor Yushchenko.

No to NATO
Ukraine's new governing coalition in parliament, led by the Party of the Regions, said on March 23 it will pass a law against joining military alliances such as NATO, a move that is sure to please Russia, while tilting Ukraine away from its previous pro-Western course. In a statement of purpose published in the parliament's official newspaper, the coalition supporting President Viktor Yanukovych said new legislation will "enshrine Ukraine's non-aligned status in law."

Such a move would kill one of the key initiatives of Yanukovych's predecessor, the staunchly pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko, who had struggled to gain admission to NATO since he was vaulted to power by the Orange Revolution protests of 2004. Although Yushchenko's NATO ambitions never gained broad public support, neither amongst his own population, nor in other NATO countries, they managed to infuriate Russia - which recently published a military doctrine naming the alliance's possible eastward expansion as the country's top external threat.

Moscow's effort in recent years to restore its own influence over Ukraine and other former Soviet states got a powerful boost with the election of Yanukovych, who has pledged to cooperate with Russia on key energy and military issues.

An opposition in agony, but new unity
Ukraine's opposition never quite expected to lose, which it did by only a small margin. It had a bristling reaction to the governing coalition's statement. It signed its own formal agreement to work together against Yanukovych and his supporters in parliament.

"Today we are forming a union of opposition parties," said opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who just lost to Yanukovych in the hard-fought presidential race in March. "It will allow us to coordinate our efforts, giving us the ability to protect Ukraine and its democratic path," Tymoshenko said at a signing ceremony with seven other senior lawmakers who oppose Yanukovych.


No EU; NO to the West
The new governing coalition behind Yanukovych was formed at the end of March in parliament, and he quickly moved to appoint a prime minister loyal to him, Mykola Azarov.

The statement of purpose from the coalition made no mention of the European Union (EU), which Ukraine had also sought to join under Yushchenko's presidency, but also without success. "Essentially, it is additional evidence of the intention to change the strategic course of Ukraine," said Hryhoriy Nemyria, the deputy head of Tymoshenko's fraction in parliament. "It is incompatible with the aims to modernize Ukraine's economy and society," he said in a statement Tuesday.

Analysts also criticized the new statement of purpose, saying it would play too much into the Kremlin's hands. "This is what Russia has been waiting for," said Vadim Karasyov, head of the Global Strategies Institute, a think tank in Kiev. "But this is a dead end. A country in Ukraine's position cannot remain unaligned."

As part of its effort to assert influence over the post-Soviet sphere, Russia has been promoting the Cooperation and Security Treaty Organization, or CSTO, which is seen as its answer to NATO.

Analysts have said Yanukovych could be pressured to join the Russia-dominated bloc, but the statement published on March 23 appears to apply to all military alliances, including the CSTO.

Ukrainian leader threatens to call snap election
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich warned on March he would call a snap parliamentary election if a court ruled that a coalition supporting him in parliament had been formed illegally.

His comment to European parliamentarians appeared aimed at assuring Ukraine's Western partners of his democratic credentials in the face of criticism that he played fast and loose with the constitution to secure a government of old friends and allies.

But, though it amounted to a restatement of previous remarks, Yanukovich's threat nonetheless revived political tension after last month's fraught contest for president from which he narrowly emerged the winner.

The ex-Soviet republic of 46 million people is in great need of international financial help and confidence to overcome the effects of the global downturn which has hit its main export markets of steel and chemicals.

Analysts say a new election would only push back prospects for a quick return to political stability and delay resumption of co-operation with the International Monetary Fund, whose credit helped Ukraine avoid default through much of last year.

At issue is a last-minute amendment to the parliamentary fine print governing formation of coalitions which suddenly paved the way earlier this month for Mykola Azarov -- a close ally of Yanukovich -- to come in as prime minister.

Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, Yanukovich's bitter rival whom he beat in the runoff for president, this month dubbed the amendment a "constitutional coup d'etat" and it is now being considered by Ukraine's Constitutional Court.

"If the decision of the Constitutional Court is that the coalition was formed illegally, then I will take a decision on a snap election," Yanukovich told a delegation from the European Parliament.

"I will never go down the path of breaching the constitution that is in force," he said.

Yanukovich said the 18-judge Constitutional Court had begun reviewing the case. It was unclear when it could issue a ruling. On urgent matters the court rules within weeks but on matters deemed less urgent it can take months or even longer.

Analysts said that after Tymoshenko's failed attempt to smear Yanukovich and prove in court that his camp had cheated in the Feb. 7 runoff the president was eager to show he was acting within the law.

"This is an excuse for demonstrating his adherence to the supremacy of law," said Yuri Yakimenko of the Razumkov centre for political analysis.

The next scheduled parliamentary election is slated for Autumn 2012. An early poll could produce unpredictable changes to the political landscape and would be very dangerous for the prospects of many deputies including Yanukovich's Regions Party.

"The Regions Party has no interest in new elections," said Yakimenko.

But 'Yes' to the IMF
Yanukovich's comment came as an IMF mission negotiated with the government over prospects of resuming a $16.4 billion bailout programme, suspended last November over Kiev's broken spending promises.

The hryvnia has strengthened, bond yields have dropped as has the cost of insuring against a Ukrainian default since the election of Yanukovich and the installation of a new government because investors see a period of political stability ahead.

A snap election would erode those gains, analysts say.





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