Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Orange Revolution turns red

I haven't posted much about the political crisis in Ukraine, because I thought it was pretty cut and dry, and I sort of forget that not everyone follows Eastern European politics as closely as I do. So, essentially what has happened is that the South Ossetian war has frightened the people of Ukraine, as well as its political establishment, and the already shaky "Orange" liberal coalition partners – Yushchenko and Tymoshenko – have been divided. Tymoshenko and her bloc refused to share in Yushchenko's condemnation of the Russian actions in Georgia, and she's given in to the heavy pressure to ally herself with Russia, at least for the moment. Ukraine has a sizable Russian minority, and an even larger amount of people in the eastern half of the country who have pro-Russian sentiments. Crimea has a bare Russian majority, and is home to Russia's formidable Black Sea Fleet, and as such could be vulnerable to the same sort of Russian revanchism that happened in Georgia.

Anyway, President Yushchenko has dissolved parliament, and new elections will happen in a few months. Tymoshenko's political stars are clearly on the rise, and in the midst of the crisis she's been to the Kremlin to negotiate Ukraine's natural gas deals with Russia, an issue near and dear to Ukrainians' hearts since Russia shut off gas pipes to Ukraine around New Years 2006. While in Moscow, Tymoshenko pushed for closer ties between the two countries' big state energy concerns – Naftogaz and Gazprom. This was seen as a power play by Yushchenko's supporters, as it came in the middle of this political crisis that was directly related to Ukraine's relations with Russia, and tensions flared when Yushchenko's supporters alleged that Tymoshenko really went to Russia to get the backing of the Russians, who still play a very active role in Ukrainian politics.

According to Stratfor, Russia's got a "wild card" up their sleeve in the form of Ukraine's richest oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov, who is apparently the "puppetmaster" behind Ukraine's large pro-Russian Party of Regions. Stratfor says that his power over Ukrainian politics has "grown exponentially" in recent years, and that ultimately he is "firmly held by the Kremlin," which very well might use him to seal the deal in the December elections. Though at the rate it's going – with Tymoshenko having defected, and Yushchenko's approval ratings below 10% – they might not even have to use him.

1 comment:

Федоренко said...

The former Soviet territory always had two troubles: roads and fools. But life goes on, and the list of troubles gets certain national colour. It seems, that in Ukraine now it is necessary to be afraid not only of "fools" and "roads", but “ crisis struggle” and “Euro 2012 preparation”.