Another revolution appears to be taking place in the Ukraine. This potentially wealthy country on the border of Russia with its troubled tragic but rich history which suffered much during the second world war and was the scene of horrible genocide against its Jewish ethnic and religious minority during the Nazi invasion and much suffering during its famine after the Russian revolution and Stalin’s forced and brutal collectivization policies in the early 1930s has been courageously struggling to find its way in the post cold war world. Riddled with corrupt politics and failed economic policies a large portion of the people or at least the coalition of pro democracy forces has risen up and demanded the resignation of the current elected pro Russian President,Viktor Yanukovitch .Indeed, the Parliament has just voted to replace him and called for new elections in May.
The principal leader of the opposition forces the former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was released from prison by the parliament in response to the demands of the protesters who occupied the central square in Kiev for the past months to protest the government’s decision to reject a pact with the European union and instead sign one with Russia in exchange for concessions on natural gas prices and 15 billion $ in financial aid. These protests led to violence and and the death by sniper fire and repression of many protestors . These violent deaths totally discredited the Yanukovitch government.
For the moment the situation is still somewhat unclear. We shall see if the European union comes up with enough aid to fill the gap that will occur with the withdrawal of Russian support.Russia clearly has major interests in what happens in a state which borders it and has had historic ties with it.The Eastern part of the Ukraine has historically leaned toward Russia rather than the west. Indeed families live on both sides of the border and speak Russian rather than Ukrainian. So there is a separatist potential in the eastern areas. There is also the danger of extremist right wing anti-semitic forces emerging as influential players on the Ukrainian scene. The next few weeks promise to be very interesting and critical for the future of democracy in Eastern Europe. An additional interesting note is the statement in today’s(Sunday’s) New York Times that in exchange for IMF aid as part of a EU package the Ukraine was asked to embrace conditionality that included austerity. The former President Yanukovitch refused to agree to this. It will be very interesting if the IMF terms change and what the new Government will do in response to this demand if it does not change.