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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
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: 350 - (25/02/10)

Table-turning
There has been a turn-up for the book. The West has not won in Ukraine and has been bested by Western means - elections. Immensely important elections for the presidency of Ukraine commenced in the New Year, with the second round on February 7. The pro-Russian candidate won just, by 3.5%. This could lead to a massive resurgence of Russian influence in the Western FSU, indeed in the entire former Soviet Union.

The PM, Julia Tymoshenko, his main rival, contested the result. But observers reported the election as a remarkably fair one for a nascent democracy. It must be a bitter blow to be so close and yet so far from the supreme post.

She is certainly much the better-looking candidate. With her glamour, wealth (she is a billionaire) and experience, her time could come.

Congratulations poured in from world leaders for Viktor Yanukovych, the presumptive winner of Ukraine's presidential elections, piling pressure on Prime Minister Tymoshenko to concede defeat.

President Barack Obama called Yanukovych on February 11 to congratulate him on winning the presidential runoff vote.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and European Union President Herman Van Rompuy sent notes of support to Yanukovych, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown encouraged Ukraine's EU membership goal under Yanukovych. The United Kingdom "has long supported Ukraine's EU aspirations and we will continue to do so. A broader EU is a stronger EU," Brown said in a statement on February 12.

The outgoing president's revenge
Tymoshenko's acting interior minister, Yury Lutsenko, blamed her defeat on outgoing President Viktor Yushchenko, who helped lead the 2004 Orange protests that vaulted him and Tymoshenko to power.

"The reason for Tymoshenko's defeat is Yushchenko's political betrayal. He resembles the king who betrayed Joan of Arc and sent her to be burned at the stake, even after she had made him the king."

Yanukovych capitalized during the election campaign on the vicious antagonism between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko that ensued soon after they took power. Their bickering often paralyzed the government over the past five years and prevented the Orange leaders from staving off an economic collapse last year.

Oranges and lemons in Ukraine
At first sight, the prospect of a Viktor Yanukovich presidency in Ukraine looks like part of a depressing pattern for democracy around the world. Mr Yanukovich was the "bad guy" during Ukraine's Orange Revolution in 2004. He was backed by Russia and accused of electoral fraud. The Western world cheered when he was swept aside in favour of the heroic, pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko. But now Mr Yanukovich is back and history seems to have gone into reverse.

Back in 2004, Ukraine's Orange Revolution - along with the other colour revolutions in Georgia in 2003 and in Kyrgyzstan in 2005 - looked like the latest example of a long democratic wave that had rolled around the world for 30 years: from Spain and Portugal in the 1970s to the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the end of apartheid in South Africa and the fall of Suharto in Indonesia. Some hoped that democratic revolutions in the old Soviet periphery would be followed by a re-assertion of such values in Russia itself - and the roll-back of Putinism.

But - in retrospect - the colour revolutions represented a high-water mark for the global democratic movement. Shortly afterwards, things started to go wrong. Freedom House , an American advocacy group that monitors political and civil liberties across the world, issued its annual report and noted: "For the fourth consecutive year, global declines in freedom outweighed gains in 2009 . . . This represents the longest continuous period of decline for global freedom in the nearly 40-year history of the report."

The think-tank recorded declines for freedom in 40 nations around the world, against 16 where the situation was deemed to be improving. Just five years after its Tulip Revolution, Kyrgyzstan has slipped back into autocracy and has been reclassified as "not free" by Freedom House. Despite (or perhaps because of) its charismatic pro-Western president, Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia is deemed only "partially free" - and is threatened by an angry Russia.

Ukraine is the exception - still called a wholly "free" nation by Freedom House. But many will be tempted to regard the return to power of Mr Yanukovich - the pantomime villain of 2004 - as the beginning of the end for Ukrainian democracy as well.

The EU should give a positive response
But, tempting though it is, it would be a grave mistake to use Mr Yanukovich's election as a reason to move Ukraine out of the column of free and democratic nations. It is true that his main rival Yulia Tymoshenko has contested the results. There might yet be street protests. But most outside observers seem to think that this election was basically clean. It is probable that Mr Yanukovich won not because of Russian manipulation or ballot-box stuffing, but because the Ukrainian people actually voted for him. Freedom means many things - including the freedom to vote for a gaffe-prone ex-convict (Mr Yanukovich served time for violent crimes as a young man and caused some hilarity during the campaign when he said that one of his goals was to see Ukraine join the World Trade Organisation - something that happened two years ago).

Western observers are sometimes too quick to equate three distinct, if often related, concepts: democratic, pro-Western and well-governed. Over the past six years, during the Yushchenko presidency, Ukraine has been democratic and pro-Western - but badly governed. The average Ukrainian now yearns for better government, which accounts for the backlash against the ineffective Mr Yushchenko.

The fact that this is the third peaceful transition of leadership in Ukraine since 1991 suggests that democracy should survive a Yanukovich presidency. That is a big achievement in itself.

It may, however, be the case that Ukrainian foreign policy will tilt more towards Russia. Even though Mr Yanukovich is in favour of Ukraine joining the European Union, the chances of the country definitively joining the wider European community have been set back by this weekend's elections - and the chances of it drifting back into the Russian orbit have risen.

But rather than sighing and tut-tutting at the dissipation of some of the high hopes excited by the Orange Revolution, the leaders of the EU would do better to look at their own responsibilities.

It was Ukraine's misfortune that the Orange Revolution took place just as the European Union was succumbing to "enlargement fatigue" - following the shock of moving from 12 members in 1995 to 27 members today. As a result, the EU has given Ukraine an almost criminal lack of encouragement, as the country attempts to secure simultaneously its independence, its democracy and its prosperity. Everybody knows that actually joining the Union is a long and arduous process - since it involves transforming the laws and economies of the applicant countries. But it would have cost the EU very little to give Ukraine the encouragement of holding out the prospect of eventual membership. Since the EU was unable to offer even that, Ukraine and Georgia were left pursuing membership of NATO - which inevitably antagonised Russia.

Rather than quietly bemoaning the election of Mr Yanukovich, the EU would do better to rectify a historic error - and finally to acknowledge that Ukraine and Georgia can both aspire to membership of the Union. That would be the best way of ensuring that, even now, the gains of the Orange Revolution do not go to waste. 

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