The Kiev chill

THE POLITICAL standoff in Ukraine is graduating into a serious geopolitical chess game. Despite protesters camping out in the cold for the fifth consecutive week, demanding the government align with the European Union, President Viktor Yanukovych has managed to clinch another lucrative deal with Russia, enabling his cash-strapped administration to avoid a possible bankruptcy.

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Published: Tue 24 Dec 2013, 10:58 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 10:41 AM

The opposition, however, is defiant and the anti-government crowds are swelling with the passing of each day. Now the demand is no more restricted to joining the Western bloc, but the resignation of the government and snap presidential elections. But it seems none at the helm of affairs in Kiev are listening to the cries at Independence Square as the Russian roulette is in full swing.

The new deal that Yanukovych struck with Russian President Vladimir Putin offers Ukraine a special discount on Russian gas and Moscow bought $15 billion worth of government bonds as well. It seems the Moscow-led Customs Union, which critics say Ukraine had joined under duress, is more of a regulatory mechanism to keep Kiev under the influence of Russia than to enable its economy to perform on a competitive basis. Perhaps this is why the 28-member EU accuses Russia of putting unacceptable and undue pressure on Ukraine. With no signs of Kiev yielding to the popular demand on the streets for reconsidering its alignment with Russia, there are fears of a crackdown. The administration could have been buoyed by Kremlin to go on a witch-hunt against the pro-West opposition, and seal the fate of political activism with an iron hand. After all, Russia had been doing this for long.

As far as Putin is concerned, he seems to have perfectly extended his influence over Ukraine, adding a new feather in his cap. It remains to be seen what course of action Ukrainians take as they seek a divorce from the erstwhile Soviet Union module. Their quest for Europe has a history of resilience with people dreaming of a life at par with what they perceive as the liberal and democratic West. The repeat of the 2004 Orange Revolution may threaten Yanukovych and his aides if they fail to heed the writing on the wall. It’s time the people out in the cold with a national cause are heard with an open heart.

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