No thaw, all chill

December 08, 2013 - 7:10:58 am

Talk of a new gas deal between Russia and Ukraine undercuts the tenacity of protesters who are relentlessly pursuing a cause.

In freezing temperatures, Ukrainians who want their country to follow the western model are picketing at Independence Square in the capital Kiev for days. The bone-chilling weather is testing the resolve of the protesters who want the former Soviet Republic to keep pushing away from Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Moscow has been trying hard to pull Ukraine over to its side after the country was seen to be leaning West amid the pull by the European Union to sign a trade agreement in keeping with its Eastern Partnerships programme. 

It seems embattled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is fighting a losing battle with the pulls and pushes of Russia and Europe tearing apart the country. Yanukovych has been cast as the villain in the standoff that seems to be deepening by every passing day. 

Ukraine lies on the strategic gas route between Russia and Europe. The European Union was almost ready with the agreement and officials of the 29-nation bloc were almost celebrating after having beaten Putin to his own game, or so they thought. The former KGB spy, however, had the last laugh. He would now be laughing all the way to the Gazprom-funded coffers. Gazprom is the state-owned Russian energy giant. The Ukrainian protesters became more indignant yesterday after learning that Yanukovych had participated in a summit with Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. The two countries decided to narrow differences over the price of Russian gas at the meeting, which is set to continue. 

Yanukovych’s volte face derailed the deal with the EU that was expected to be signed in a summit in Lithuania. However, Russia’s proposed customs union proved to be a better bet for Yanukovych, who is grappling with many crises on the domestic front. The government’s being saddled with huge debts and the threatening disposition of Kremlin’s might was too much for the Ukrainian leader. Russia has been trying to coerce its former Republics into some kind of a coalition that would help Moscow keep its footprint large and strong in the region. Putin brooks no dissent. And so he tried to force the Caucasus nations to fall in line. Most of them did, except Georgia. He has been trying the same game with Ukraine. However, because of its size and geostrategic footprint, Ukraine is not the one to kowtow easily.  Though Yanukovych has vested interests in going the Russian way, the citizens of Ukraine are no mannequins to look out the window as a dictatorial regime stares them down. The nation underwent the Orange Revolution under the stewardship of jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Her incarceration, like many of Yanukovych’s actions, is under the glare of the West, which says the Orange Revolution darling’s sentencing is a result of selective justice. 

The swaddled protesters in Ukraine are trying to beat the cold, or the heat of Yanukovych’s injustice by cooking warm food for themselves in the street. But what’s cooking between Putin and Yanukovych is likely to ruin the future of Ukraine•
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