Republican Reference - Area (sq.km) 603,550 - Population 45,134,707 - Capital Kiev - Currency Hryvnya (UAH) - President Viktor Yanukovych - Principal ethnic groups Ukrainians 72.7%, Russians 22.1%, Jews 0.9%.

ukraine

UKRAINE
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Key Economic Data 
 
  2012 2009 2008 Ranking(2012)
GDP
Millions of US $ 176,309 180,354 180,354 52
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 3,500 3,210 3,210 136
Ranking is given out of 213 nations - (data from the World Bank)

  

Background:
Ukraine was the center of the first Slavic state, Kievan Rus, which during the 10th and 11th centuries was the largest and most powerful state in Europe. Weakened by internecine quarrels and Mongol invasions, Kievan Rus was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and eventually into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The cultural and religious legacy of Kievan Rus laid the foundation for Ukrainian nationalism through subsequent centuries. A new Ukrainian state, the Cossack Hetmanate, was established during the mid-17th century after an uprising against the Poles. Despite continuous Muscovite pressure, the Hetmanate managed to remain autonomous for well over 100 years. During the latter part of the 18th century, most Ukrainian ethnographic territory was absorbed by the Russian Empire. Following the collapse of czarist Russia in 1917, Ukraine was able to bring about a short-lived period of independence (1917-1920), but was reconquered and forced to endure a brutal Soviet rule that engineered two artificial famines (1921-22 and 1932-33) in which over 8 million died. In World War II, German and Soviet armies were responsible for some 7 to 8 million more deaths. Although independence was achieved in 1991 with the dissolution of the USSR, true freedom remains elusive, as the legacy of state control has been difficult to throw off. Where state control has dissipated, endemic corruption has filled much of the resulting vacuum, stalling efforts at economic reform, privatization, and civil liberties.  The so called 'Orange revolution' of late 2004 seems to offer the prospect of Ukrainian government being less subservient to Russia and suggests some reduction in the power and influence of regional Oligarchs, and perhaps a reduction in corruption.

UPDATE - MAY 2014

What to do about Ukraine

Nuland and the US's $5 billion - how was it spent?

Revelations have been pouring out of Ukraine, above all demonstrating that the tug-of-war with Russia over the ultimate control of Ukraine involves some very shady characters, none more so than ‘the Right Sector.’ The eastern areas, currently so much in the news clearly also have their full quotient of thugs and worse, given the alleged murder and torture of prisoners amongst prominent locals living in the east who declared for Kiev, rather than Moscow. These in the context of the Crimea behaving similarly, as now in Ukraine’s eastern provinces, have been described as ‘Don Cossacks’ (which fits an historic role in Russian affairs).

“The Right Sector”, achieved international prominence during the Kievian Maidan riots against the elected (but pro-russian ) President Yanukovych. Large, often overweight uniformed nationalist militia, with thuggish characteristics that are still patrolling the streets of Kiev, armed with baseball-bats and machine pistols, have become a permanent challenge, not only to western Ukrainian supporters of Russia, but also to the official Ukrainian police, military and politicians. When the US State Department’s Victoria Nuland made her famous comments at which she claimed that US $5 billion had been spent on ‘democratising’ Ukraine, it is a pity she did not explain how the money had been disbursed and how much went to the ‘Right Sector’ and fellow rowdies, whose theories about democracy tie back into thuggery, masquerading as patriotism. They still occupy two government buildings in Kiev. Five thousand million dollars should get a lot of results in Ukraine. Our World Audit Democracy tables of January 2014, show a ‘democratic’ Ukraine (before these troubles, after 23 years freedom from the USSR ) positioned 106th in democracy rankings (out of 150 in the world). In corruption rankings they show out at 120th, so it would be interesting to know how 5 billion USD was ‘invested’ in developing democratic institutions? Or did it just go to the usual apparatchiks?

Their equal and opposites in Eastern Ukraine look to be out of the same mould and occupy rather more government buildings where they are.

In practice it is very reminiscent of Nazi beer-hall gatherings with uniformed militias in control.

The Right Sector en masse, replicate the Russian- supporting militia down in the Crimea - now in Donetsk etc; many of them also clearly undisciplined overweight boozers, in ill-fitting military fatigues without showing badges of identity or rank, but displaying automatic weapons. There is speculation that mixed in with them are Spetznatz or other Special forces, which may or may not be true, perhaps unlikely (based only on what may be seen), since they are often characterised like Special Forces elsewhere, by a cult of extreme fitness, which is not how these ‘Cossacks’ present.

Russia is now pressing for those cities/provinces on the eastern borders of Ukraine to be given a high degree of decision--making in a Kiev federal government, so much so as to be able to prevent Ukraine joining the European Union and/or Nato.

It’s a smart move, looks and sounds democratic but would in fact bestow paralysis on Kiev, in terms of big decisions involving Russian interests.

A smarter counter-move would be, as we have urged previously, for Ukraine’s central government to call referenda individually on those same cities and provinces within the overall national question. They are demanding this. The Question to be decided is whether they wish to leave independent Ukraine and seek membership of the Russian federation , or to remain within Ukraine’s current frontiers, centrally governed from the seat of government in Kiev.

It would be much better in achieving any kind of an independent future for Ukraine, that it does not try to force its pro- Russian citizens into remaining in a Ukraine that is anathema to them – IF a referendum should show that to be the case. But it would obviously have to be a referendum unlike that of Crimea, supervised at every stage by the respected international specialists OSCE; the report and results of which election would be valid and trustworthy.

A Federation whose component populations were diametrically opposed, would be a sure recipe for future inaction and internal strife. Ukraine, when in 1991 it emerged from the seventy plus year embrace of the USSR, was an incoherent ethnic mess with no experience of decision making independent from Moscow.

Now is the time to test the wishes of its citizens and go accordingly.

Better to have a smaller population and landmass and be in future genuinely independent of mother Russia, than to be required to jump, any time Moscow cracked its whip.

Since the groundswell in the East is pro-Russian, if Russia says it would refuse to accept them- highly unlikely after such a referendum, then the dissidents will see in the starkest terms that their only future rests in an independent Ukraine.

If Russia will as it should accept them, the remainder of Ukraine will be relieved of a region which feels no loyalty to Ukraine, indeed only to neighbouring Russia, and will be enabled to go their own way in whatever the various elected representatives can get voter endorsement to do.

 

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