Monday, 25 November 2013

Keep an eye on Ukraine...

Events in Ukraine since the government there turned its back on an association agreement with the EU on Friday are rapidly unfolding. Ukrainians, tired of being held back economically and developmentally by a succession of kleptocrats, have taken to the streets, protesting their desire to join the mainstream of European civilisation.

It is clear that is it is not in Russia's interests to allow that to happen. Although Ukrainian president Yanukovych is no ally of Putin's, he is sufficiently venal to be Putin's pliant puppet. Putin may similarly reciprocate a coolness towards Yanukovych, but he knows where the Ukrainian president's darker secrets are hidden. Yanukovych's first loyalty lies with the personal fortunes of himself, his family and his cronies - the long-term future of his nation comes far behind.

Sadly, there's little by way of alternatives for the Ukrainian voter, keen for the way of life that EU membership could one day offer them. Yulia Tymoshenko, the imprisoned former premier, was as venal as Yanukovich; Yushchenko, elected to office after the Orange Revolution of nine years ago, turned out to be too weak to deal with the rapacious oligarchs. And there's something about Vitaly Klitschko, former boxer-turned-presidential-hopeful that makes me suspect that if he wins the 2015 vote, he too will spoil and reveal himself as a strongman seeking ever-greater power for himself.

Yet the massive turnouts by protesters in Kiev, Kharkov and other Ukrainian cities gives one hope that ordinary people, who really have had enough when comparing their lot with the living standards and prospects of their post-communist neighbours to the west, have woken up to the fact that they have been deprived of the right to a decent life by a bunch of liars and thieves.

It is certainly Poland's geopolitical imperative to ensure a buffer zone to the east between its borders and Russia; Ukraine as a member of the EU would be most welcome. One day, when that happens, and EU structural and cohesion funds start turning the largest non-Russian European soviet republic into a normal country, when Ukrainians can work legally across the EU, when Ukraine once again becomes the breadbasket of Europe, Poles will be able to sleep a little more safely.

Until then, we must not lose sight of Ukraine and its people, and hope that somehow democracy and common sense will prevail, and the brutal pressure of Russia on its neighbours will ease up.

This time last year:
Płock by day, Płock by night

This time two years ago:
Warning ahead of railway timetable change

This time six years ago:
Some thoughts on recycling

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