Ukraine’s Sudden Shift towards Russia

Written by | Friday, November 22nd, 2013
DR. Maria Garcia

The Ukrainian government decided it would suspend signing the trade agreement with the European Union. The unexpected decision came yesterday (21 November), only eight days before Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovitch was meant to sign the landmark trade deal. This dramatic change has been to a great extent caused by the fears of Ukraine’s politicians that Russia would adopt severe retaliatory measures affecting trade between the two countries if Kiev signed the deal. Yet, according to official statements, the EU-Ukraine pact was suspended due to “national security concerns”.
Already during the EU-Ukraine negotiations, Moscow expressed its dissatisfaction with Ukraine shifting westwards. Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to impose retaliation in Russia-Ukraine trade links and insisted that Ukraine would join the customs union that Russia has with Kazakhstan and Belarus, which is something that would have never been in accordance with the EU-Ukraine trade deal. Following the sudden suspension, Kiev announced that it was ready to resume “active economic dialogue” with Russia and very likely also the Commonwealth of Independent States, a group of former Soviet Republics.
Although Ukrainians were not united in their expectations about the trade pact with the EU, the opposition had announced earlier that the failure of President Yanukovitch to sign the agreement would be sufficient grounds for impeachment. Now, after months of difficult talks between Brussels and Kiev, the President will not even face the possibility of not signing. However, the opposition leaders have already said that it was President Yanukovitch, who is responsible for Ukraine moving away from the EU.
If signed, the trade deal would imply several reforms in Ukraine’s judiciary system, especially dealing with the so-called “selective justice”, as well as reforms of the electoral system. The agreement also included Ukraine’s commitment to the release of country’s former Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, out of jail. Tymoshenko, 52, is serving seven years in prison after she was controversially charged with the abuse of power over gas deals with Russia.

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EUROPE'S NEIGHBORHOOD

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