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Ukraine Looks West, Moves East

In a move widely seen as an attempt to subvert the Ukrainian opposition, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison for “exceeding her authority” while she was in power. From the Financial Times:

In a verdict whose severity shocked thousands of her supporters protesting outside the courtroom, the judge also ordered the one-time co-leader of the Orange Revolution to cover losses of almost $200m allegedly caused to Ukraine’s state gas company by a 2009 gas deal she signed with Russia.

Lady Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, expressed anger at the decision and said the court’s ruling would have “profound” implications for the EU-Ukraine bilateral relationship.

As Via Meadia wrote last week, the EU’s current economic troubles are occupying all of its time and energy, leaving little opportunity to concern itself with the actions of its neighbors. While the EU hopes to keep Kiev from moving too far toward Moscow, actions like this show that Ukraine still remains on the cusp of Russia’s sphere of influence.

Paradoxically, the prosecution of Tymoshenko was intended to loosen Ukraine’s business ties to Moscow.  The bad gas deal she signed with Gazprom locks Ukraine into an unfavorable relationship with Russia’s favored gas company.  Convicting Tymoshenko of exceeding her authority in signing the deal might help Ukraine negotiate a less one-sided arrangement.

Now that she has been convicted, pardoning Tymoshenko would help Ukraine strengthen ties to the EU once again without losing any bargaining chips it was hoping the court verdict would give it in the ongoing struggle with Gazprom.  Any reduction in the fine could be negotiated and presumably would be.

None of this speaks particularly well about Ukrainian governance; the crippling legacy of Soviet and Nazi mass murder, plus late Soviet corruption and stagnation made Ukraine a wounded and diminished society which is struggling to rebuild itself after what may be the worst 20th century experience of any society on earth.

Neither the EU nor the US appears to have the focus and energy to deal effectively with Ukraine today.  Expect more clumsy wooing by President Putin, for whom the reintegration of Ukraine into some kind of Russian space would be the capstone of his career.  Ukraine remains at the center of Russian foreign policy and has fallen to the fringes for everyone else.  No prizes for guessing the likely next steps.

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  • Kaspars Ozolins

    “…late Soviet corruption and stagnation made Ukraine a wounded and diminished society which is struggling to rebuild itself after what may be the worst 20th century experience of any society on earth.”

    Probably a close second to China, which experienced Japan’s fury and terror before anyone else did in the 1930s, coupled with Mao’s murderous rise to power, culminating with the most peacetime deaths ever during his painfully long reign.

  • higgins1990

    Yulia Tymoshenko is a crook. She and her cronies were the reason that Russia shut off the gas on January 1st, 2006. They bought gas from Russia for mere kopeks, then re-sold it to Eastern Europe for a hefty profit (which went to their personal accounts). After the Orange Revolution, Yulia famously said that the Ukraine would be a part of the EU and that NATO needed to contain Russia (everything that the West wanted to hear). So Russia said, fine, if you want to be a part of Europe, you must pay European prices. Russia gave the Ukraine 8 months advanced notice in April 2005 of the pending price hike. By December, then President Yushenko couldn’t get Yulia or the other cabinet members to pry their fingers off the pipeline, hence the shut down.

    Her habitual criminal behavior and lust for power are well known in the Ukraine and Russia. The only people shocked by her conviction are Euro-wienies and American pundits who have a narrative to uphold (“Russia is bad”). The rest of us think she has gotten what she has deserved.

  • timw

    higgins1990, from my long-time ex-pat perspective here in Kiev, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Your opinions are absurd and ignorant.

    I’m not going to bother telling you why — it’s not my job to educate you, what do I care? — but everyone else who stumbles across this post should know that higgins should not be listened to.

    The fact is that the Tymoshenko verdict was an outrage motivated by politics, and one that the Yanukovych regime is already regretting.

    Putin and the Kremlin, not only the “Euroweenies” and the American pundits, have expressed their outrage over the decision.

    Again: ATTENTION READERS, Higgins has no idea what he’s talking about. (Mead seems not to really get it either, but he’s not spouting obvious lies like higgins is.)

  • higgins1990

    @timw: Great rebuttal. You made an excellent counter point and listed facts. Except that you didn’t.

    I lived in Donetsk (still have family there) and currently live in Russia.

    Let me ask you this: Where did Julia make her millions? Has Julia ever been convicted prior to this? Have any of her close associates and relatives been convicted and imprisoned? And what was behind her most recent deal with Gazprom? You don’t know the answer to these questions, do you?

    Ты сам дурак.

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