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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: 348 - (16/12/09)

Campaign heats up
Ukraine is in the thick of a vital presidential campaign that could decide the fate of the nation. It is entering its final phase, the first round of the elections falling on January 17.

It seems scarcely possible for the incumbent, President Viktor Yushchenko to win. Times have been very grim for most of the population. Ukraine has felt the full force of the global economic crisis, after experiencing a post-Soviet style collapse already.

The two who are in with a chance are the PM, Yulia Timoshenko, who is exceedingly rich from her days as a gas mogul, and the leader of the pro-Russian Party of the Regions, Viktor Yanukovich, who has the backing of Moscow. Neither want for campaign funds.

She can escape blame for the economic crisis because she was was for long out of power, under a cloud for being suspected of acquired her enormous wealth ' by crooked and devious ways.' She has something of the allure of a Berlusconi, of whom the same could doubtless be said. People think of both of them, 'if they can do so well for themselves, maybe they can do well for us too.'

At least some people do. Whether enough to win her the presidency remains to be seen. Italy is after all a lot better off than Ukraine.

She is a good-looking, glamourous woman with a feisty character, as she made plain during the Rose Revolution in October 2004. "I am the person wearing the trousers here," she said at the time, permanently alienating her colleague, Yushchenko, by adding insult to injury (he had just been poisoned by the KGB).

Yushchenko on the stump
“If she wins, you’ll all lose, all of you. And, most important, Ukraine will be a major loser,” Pres Yushchenko said, addressing a group of Timoshenko supporters in the Volyn oblast December 8. [Yushchenko typically refrains from naming Yulia Timoshenko in his speeches, preferring to refer to her as “she”, a form of address implying lack of respect].

Yushchenko was met on his visit to Smolyhiv, Volyn Oblast, not only by his supporters, but also by a group of Yulia Timoshenko fans with their trademark banners. After the ceremony to unveil a new food company, Yushchenko turned to Timoshenko supporters, accusing them of being paid for coming to the ceremony.

“I have to react to paid-for audiences as I am your president. The least I would wish is to have rent-a-crowd rallies attended by small Ukrainians who care only about being paid 100 or 200 hryvnias,” the incumbent said. These words were met by protesting shouts from Tymoshenko supporters who said they showed up at the ceremony voluntarily.

“We haven’t had a worse premier [referring to Timoshenko] with a worse record in managing agriculture,” Yanukovich remarked.

If Ukraine deviates from his political course, he added, it will lose its independence in 2 years. He was referring to the fact that Timoshenko has become great pals with Putin, between whom there seems to be a certain sexual chemistry. They admire each other's strength of character. Yanukovich is already Moscow's man anyway.

A Timoshenko supporter's counter-blast
A riposte to this by a Timoshenko supporter on the web is worth quoting: “Ukraine hasn’t had a worse president [referring to Yanukovich) A president who has divided the nation, undermined its democratic and economic development A president who has betrayed Ukraine and those who supported his election.

“A president who has breached his oath and acted contrary to the provision of Ukraine's constitution. A president who has and continues to misuse and abuse power and authority invested in him. A president who vetoed proposed taxation increased on the sale of tobacco products compromising then health and welfare of not only Ukraine but also their European neighbours.

“A president who espouses the words of democracy yet whose own actions, policies and deeds are far from democratic. A president who has caused more harm then good. A president, who once commanded the support of 52% of the nation and now has less then 4%, Yanukovich was once nominated for a Nobel Prize now he holds the world record as the least supported head of state.

“With a record like that he should not be throwing stones - The pot calling the kettle black.”

There are almost certainly enough Ukrainians who think likewise to sink Yanukovich. It is becoming a two-horse race.

Yanukovich in confident form
Viktor Yanukovich is riding high. He has been out of power for five years and cannot be blamed for what has gone wrong. It is inconceivable that Moscow would ever cut off gas in winter to Ukraine under his stewardship, as happened last winter. He is the one candidate who has made it abundantly clear that Ukraine should never join NATO.

He still calls himself the winner of the 2004 election. "I have never denied the influence of the Russian factor in Ukrainian politics. We should always have taken it into account," said Mr. Yanukovich in his first interview with Western media since he kicked off his campaign in October.

In a survey conducted then by the Razumkov Centre in Kiev, Mr. Yanukovich leads with 29% support for the January 17 vote, the first round of the elections. President Viktor Yanukovich trails in low single digits, while his rival and former Orange Revolution ally, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, is polling in second place at 20%. No candidate is expected to gain the 50% needed to triumph in the first round, and Ms. Tymoshenko and Mr. Yanukovich are expected to proceed to a February run-off.

Compromise ruled out by Timoshenko
A possible compromise would be for Yanukovich to retain Timoshenko as PM if he wins, or for Timoshenko to appoint Yanukovich premier, if she does. But she has publicly ruled out the latter option, which likely rules out the former one too. She wants to be her own woman in charge, without a suspicion that she is simple a front for Moscow.

There is no doubt that this is a major turning-point for Ukraine. All concerned about its future await developments.

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