"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with
power to endanger the public liberty." - - - - John Adams

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Ukraine steps back into authoritarianism

Communist party supporters attend a rally in Donetsk.  The rally took place in Donetsk to mark the
anniversary of the Ukraine's independence. AFP photo

Loser in the close 49% - 45% Ukrainian Presidential election is arrested and put in a Soviet-style "Show Trial"

20 years since the Ukraine's declaration of independence from the USSR still has its sovereignty intact, but its people still far from the dream of creating a prosperous society anchored in Europe.

Ukraine on Wednesday marks 20 years since its declaration of independence from the USSR with its sovereignty intact but its people still far from the dream of creating a prosperous society anchored in Europe.

A tumultuous two decades has seen prime ministers jailed, punches slung in parliament and the iconic “Orange” uprising that spectacularly ousted an elite who would later return to power in a modernized guise.

For many Ukrainians, independence has been a crushing disappointment with the country mired in corruption bad even by ex-USSR standards and hit by a bitter west-east divide that even raised fears about the state’s future viability.

In a sign of the economically tough times, Yanukovych scrapped a military parade on independence day that would have cost $22 million. “We got infected with some of the viruses of democracy, although they seem to come here with mutations,” told novelist Andrei Kurkov, Ukraine’s best known writer abroad. “Freedom of speech became freedom of spam. Freedom of economy became corruption. And even democracy itself turned into an independence from the law.”

Former Prime Minister Tymoshenko is under arrest amid a fractious abuse of power trial, former prime minister Pavlo Lazarenko sitting in a US jail serving a money laundering sentence and ex-president Leonid Kuchma investigated over the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze in 2000.

Western hopes that Ukraine would be a bulwark against Russian influence evaporated amid a confused foreign policy that has swung from neutrality to vehemently pro-EU, to pro-Kremlin and back to neutrality within a decade.

No politician has managed to heal Ukraine’s geographic divide which has left the Ukrainian-speaking, nationalist West with quite different ideas about the country’s future than the Russian-speaking East where the Soviet Union is more fondly remembered. Corruption has blighted the country to an extent that 10-15 percent of the budget ends up in the pocket of corrupt officials, according to Yanukovych. Meanwhile, 61 percent of GDP is thought to be controlled by its 100 richest men, oligarchs with considerable political influence.    -    (Agence France-Presse)

Yulia Tymoshenko in a political "show trial" 

Tymoshenko in a political show trial

Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko expects a guilty verdict by the end of next week in her trial on abuse of office charges, she said on Thursday.

She has repeatedly denied all the charges against her, saying they are politically motivated.

European criticism of the trial over Ukraine's former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko is groundless, incumbent Prime Minister Mykola Azarov told Le Figaro.

Tymoshenko, 50, was arrested on August 5 on charges of signing "unfair" gas supply deals with Russia and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. She could be imprisoned for 10 years if found guilty of forcing Ukraine's state gas firm Naftogaz to sign an unfavorable deal with Russia while she was serving as prime minister. Tymoshenko has repeatedly denied all the charges against her, saying they are politically motivated.

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski - who holds the rotating EU presidency - told Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych that plans to finalize a free-trade deal this year between Ukraine and the EU could be derailed by Tymoshenko's legal travails.

"The Ukrainian authorities need to find a solution that removes any doubts that this trial is an act of political revenge against the opposition," Komorowski said.

That message to Kiev was strongly reinforced by EU foreign ministers at a recent meeting in Poland, with France's top diplomat, Alain Juppe, warning that most member states believed "the agreement can be finalized only if the Tymoshenko case is solved... It means having a free and fair trial and abandoning the unjustified charges against her."

The Ukraine is divided between a more Russian speaking east and a Ukrainian speaking west.  That divide is shown in the 2010 Presidential election.  Jailed ex-Prime Miinister Tymoshenko got her votes from the Ukrainian west and was put in jail by the new leader from the Russian speaking east.
(Wikipedia map)

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