Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Deadline nears on Ukraine's future

  • Print

After two decades of teetering between East and West, Ukraine may have reached a turning point. During the next two weeks, the country's leaders must decide whether to go forward with a free-trade and political-association agreement with the European Union -- a pact that would set the nation of 50 million on a course toward full integration with the West.

A failure to do so could propel Ukraine into the arms of Russia, which is seeking to recruit it for a rival project -- a Moscow-led Eurasian Union.

The choice matters not only to Ukraine: Russian leader Vladimir Putin's dream of recreating something like the old Soviet Union hinges on it, as does the post-Cold War vision of Western leaders of a Europe "whole and free."

Ukraine's elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, has made completion of the EU deal a key objective, and its parliament has passed crucial legislation to meet EU conditions. But one major hang-up remains: the imprisonment of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a rival of Mr. Yanukovych who was convicted on dubious charges in 2011.

European governments have warned if Ms. Tymoshenko is not released, the planned signing of the pact at a regional summit meeting at the end of this month would not go forward. That would be a devastating setback for Ukraine's hopes of modernizing its economy with Western trade and investment and consolidating its shaky democratic political system.

EU envoys have brokered a compromise plan for the opposition leader to be allowed to travel to Germany for medical treatment. But it's not clear the plan will work.

Ukraine's parliament has been debating the proposal, and Russia's allies -- including many members of Mr. Yanukovych's Party of Regions -- are pressing hard to poison or kill the necessary legislation. Moscow is lobbying in its characteristically heavy-handed way, threatening Ukraine with a trade war or a cutoff of energy supplies if the EU pact goes forward. Mr. Yanukovych, a former client of Mr. Putin, himself appears to be wavering: He has promised to sign the legislation but has resisted issuing a pardon or executive order that would obviate the need for a parliamentary vote.

To their credit, EU leaders, especially from former Soviet-bloc states such as Poland and Lithuania, have been doing their best to persuade Mr. Yanukovych and the parliament to give up Ms. Tymoshenko and the Russian-style autocratic practices her imprisonment represents.

The Obama administration has been quietly lobbying as well. If the deal goes through, Ukraine will need plenty of backup from Brussels and Washington: In addition to possible Russian retaliation, the country is at risk of default on its foreign debt in the coming months and urgently needs financing from the International Monetary Fund or the private market.

It would be well worth the West's effort to rescue Ukraine's economy.

First, however, Mr. Yanukovych and his party must make the right decision.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 14, 2013 A13

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Police: Three or four infants' bodies found in storage locker

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project. Baby peregrine falcons. 21 days old. Three baby falcons. Born on ledge on roof of Radisson hotel on Portage Avenue. Project Coordinator Tracy Maconachie said that these are third generation falcons to call the hotel home. Maconachie banded the legs of the birds for future identification as seen on this adult bird swooping just metres above. June 16, 2004.
  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local/Standup- Morning Fog. Horse prances in field by McPhillips Road, north of Winnipeg. 060605.

View More Gallery Photos


Are you still on the Bombers' and Jets' bandwagons?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google