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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)

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Update No: 378 - (26/07/12)

The European Union is failing to act consistently in the way in which it deals with declining democracy in Ukraine, sending mixed signals to the government of President Viktor Yanukovych.

On July 3, the European Commission proposed amending its visa regime with Ukraine to allow more students and businessmen multiple-entry visas into the European Union. The move was swiftly criticised by several centre-right members of the European Parliament who said the EU should avoid rewarding the current Ukrainian government before the country's parliamentary elections in October. The change was signed off on July 5 but the member states in the European Council must agree to it later this year in order for it to come into effect.

Many European countries have expressed worries over the treatment of the jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and attempted to shun Yanukovych's government. Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year sentence in a prison in the eastern city of Kharkiv after being convicted of exceeding her powers when she signed a 10-year gas deal with Russia in 2009 that the authorities say was not in Ukraine's interests. After she was jailed last October, The European Union postponed the consideration of entering into a deep trade agreement with Ukraine, fearing that her imprisonment was politically motivated and democracy in the country was sliding.

Since then, pressure on Tymoshenko has stepped up. On June 13, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said he believed that Tymoshenko "participated" in the murder of lawmaker Yevhen Shcherban, who was gunned down in Donetsk in November 1996 as part of an apparent struggle over the control of energy resources.

"Various criminal cases were carried out with Tymoshenko's participation, including Shcherban's murder. There were motives," Yanukovych said.

Five days later, Deputy Prosecutor-General Renat Kuzmin announced that there is enough evidence to charge Tymoshenko in connection with the murder, although he didn't say what crime she would be accused of. This latest investigation into Tymoshenko's actions is just one of a whole host. Aside from her seven-year sentence for abuse of office, Tymoshenko is also currently on trial for tax offences and other alleged criminal activity. In addition, the appeal against her conviction has been postponed by the prosecution three times, most recently on July 12.

The apparent attempt to make sure that President Yanukovych's rivals are politically destroyed applies to other opposition figures, too. On February 27, a Ukrainian court sentenced former Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko (a close political ally of Tymoshenko) to four years in prison after finding him guilty of embezzlement and abuse of office. He has consistently denied the charges against him.

Europe has taken Lutsenko's detention seriously, making the decision to relax visa restrictions all the more puzzling. On July 3, The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found the Ukrainian authorities guilty of unlawfully detaining Lutsenko and ordered that he be paid 15,000 euros ($19,000) in damages. The court ruled that Ukrainian authorities had given "no valid reasons" for holding him and had failed to properly review the lawfulness of his detention.

Despite the criticism levelled against the government of Yanukovych, the country has continued to promote itself on the international stage. Ukraine co-hosted the Euro 2012 football tournament with Poland from early June to the final on July 1, so the European Parliament's ruling came a little too late to be a public relations disaster for the President. While the German chancellor Angela Merkel and assorted EU chiefs shunned the country in protest at the treatment and imprisonment of Tymoshenko, it was failings in the Ukraine that can't be directly blamed on the President that garnered most attention.

Football fans were warned that Ukraine was an intolerant country that they should avoid. In an interview with BBC Panorama television programme, the former England defender Sol Campbell said that UEFA was wrong to give Euro 2012 to Poland and Ukraine because of their failure to get to grips with racism. He told fans: "Stay at home, watch it on TV. Don't even risk [going] because you could end up coming back in a coffin."

Respect for human rights is sliding elsewhere in everyday life. As well as escalating problems with racism, Ukraine is also becoming increasingly intolerant of homosexuals. On June 19, lawmakers in Ukraine's parliament announced that a draft law against the spreading of "homosexual propaganda" among minors had been submitted by deputies of the ruling Party of Regions. In its current form, the law states that a person could be fined up to 11,900 hryvnyas, or around $1,500, for spreading "homosexual propaganda" to people under 18.

That draft law was proposed just three months after a similar law was presented to the State Duma in the Kremlin, indicating that Ukraine is copying Russia in terms of its attitude to minority groups in society, signalling a shift away from democratic principles. The similarities between Russia and Ukraine's attempts at homogenising society have been picked up by rights watchdog Freedom House. On June 6, the organisation warned Ukraine, along with Hungary, that it is at the forefront of an antidemocratic drive that could lead to what the group calls the "Putinisation" of young European democracies. If that is the case, it is perhaps better that the EU does not isolate the Ukraine and allow that transition to develop.

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