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Ukraine strategic partner for Russia

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, April 29
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union Ukraine has been the most important strategic partner for Georgia. However since Viktor Yanukovich came to power things have changed radically.

Many in Ukraine already think that Yanukovich is surrendering the country to Russia. One of Ukraine’s delegates to the Council of Europe has stated that Yanukovich is not President of Ukraine but a Russian-appointed Governor of Ukraine. Indeed Moscow is already receiving benefits from the Yanukovich leadership. On April 21 Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement on prolonging the presence of the Russian Navy in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol almost up to 2047, when it was originally supposed to leave in 2017. In return Ukraine will receive a discount on Russian gas it buys, meaning it will save USD 40 billion over the next ten years. The abovementioned agreement was hastily ratified by the Parliaments of both countries although the Ukrainian opposition fiercely resisted this, labelling Yanukovich and his team as traitors who have violated Ukraine's constitution and sovereignty and begun surrendering its territory to Russia. Yanukovich and his team responded by highlighting the huge financial savings their step will achieve and said that according to a poll 60% of Ukrainians support the Russian fleet staying in Sevastopol.

The West meanwhile is distancing itself from Ukraine’s affairs, limiting itself to general comments and stating that the Russian fleet issue is a matter for the two countries concerned. Europe thinks that the Russian Navy remaining in Sevastopol will not hinder Ukraine's euro integration at all. However the EU and NATO distancing themselves from Ukraine and Georgia predetermined the failure of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and Yanukovich's election can be regarded as the beginning of the end of Ukrainian sovereignty. So it could be said that this is the end of the beginning of Ukraine's euro-Atlantic integration.

Yanukovich has already rejected previous President Yushchenko's idea that the international community will eventually recognise the death of millions of Ukrainian peasants as a result of Soviet collectivisation, the so-called golodomor, as genocide. Yanukovich has instead called it a tragedy caused by the Soviet reality. Russia is also insisting, and has been doing for a while, that the Russian language should be a second official language in Ukraine, thus making it unnecessary for Russian speakers to learn Ukrainian, though the reverse is not true in Russia.

Another issue is how successful Yanukovich's economic policy will be, because all these details together could create very serious grounds for public discontent and possible confrontation in the country. Economic success could buy the public off, although there may still be broad objections to the principles behind Yanukovich's pro-Russian moves. But ultimately Yanukovicjh will have to convince his people that partnership with Russia is not the same thing absorption by the Soviet Union was, and it is events in Russia, not Ukraine, which will determine whether he can do this.